The Visitors – Catherine Burns


Client Name: Marion Zetland

Age: 54, but looks 60

Personal Appearance: Frizzy brown hair that looks like she stuck her finger in a powerpoint, in desperate need of surgery to implant a sense of fashion

Relevant Family History: Rich in money (business: Zetland’s Fine Fabrics) but not affection. Emotionally unavailable mother. Weirdo father. Psycho brother

Education: Attended three schools yet appears to have learned little at any of them

Lives: In her own little world

Home Life: Resides with her older brother, John, and various ‘visitors’ in her childhood six-bedroom home. Sleeps in her childhood attic bedroom

Home’s hoarder level: Expert

Cleanliness of home: Sorry, but I can’t see under the dust to assess this

Social Life: Does being friends with stuffed animals count?

Culinary Prowess: Toast, reheating tinned or packet food

Maladaptive Coping Mechanisms: Denial, binge-eating, denial, daydreaming, denial, living through TV shows, denial

Special Abilities: Invisibility, ability to transfigure into a doormat

Mantra: If I don’t pay attention to it then it’s not really happening

Favourite Books: Include The Secret Garden and the Harry Potter series (OK, so she has some redeeming qualities after all)

Relationship and Employment History: Did you just hear a pin drop?

Overall Assessment: This woman, whose emotional and social development halted somewhere in early childhood, needs a big dose of ‘wake up to yourself!’ A victim of her upbringing but complicit in her failure to get a life, her only expertise appears to be in not having any accountability for how her life has turned out or the choices she’s made or refused to make (honey, refusing to do anything is also a choice).

And the winners of the You Should’ve Been Sterilised at Birth category … 🥁… Marion and John’s parents!

Is it possible to want to keep reading a book when you despise the two main characters and wish them slow, excruciating deaths? Apparently.

Is it also possible to wander aimlessly between empathy and wanting to knock some sense into one of the main characters for almost the entire book? You betcha.

The Visitors is a difficult book to review. There’s so much I want to say but don’t want to give anything away. It was well written and a scarily accurate fly on the wall look into the lives of one seriously dysfunctional family. I’ve heard some seriously dysfunctional people saying some of the things that come out of these characters’ mouths almost word for word.

I imagine this will be a polarising book as it delves into some disturbing themes and although evil is most certainly committed by multiple characters, you can also see enough of the gears working inside their heads that you get an understanding of why they may choose to behave that way. I’m definitely not giving them a free pass here. Their actions are reprehensible and yet, there was a part of me that still wanted to empathise with them, just a little bit. I guess my obsession fascination with why people do the evil they do had a morbidly enjoyable feast during this book.

My main annoyance with this book came at the ending. I was hoping it would turn out differently (that’s being nice – I actually wanted to punch someone) but perhaps I can borrow a smidgen Marion’s fantasy world ability and imagine my own end to the story. Love it or hate it, this is going to be a talked about book. I can see it working well as a book club read.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Hachette Australia for the opportunity to read this book. I’d also like to say a special thanks to Erin at Hachette Australia for her excellent customer service.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar.

Until, suddenly, John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down to the cellar herself and face the gruesome truth that her brother has kept hidden.

As questions are asked and secrets unravel, maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side.

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