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The Houseguest

Rossi, Agnes

41 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 052594365X / ISBN 13: 9780525943655
Published by Dutton, New York, 2000
Condition: Fine Hardcover
From Black Falcon Books (Wellesley, MA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

First printing, January 2000, stated; full number line. Signed by the author on the title page: "Agnes Rossi." Book is tight, square, and unmarked; the dust jacket is not price-clipped (original price $23.95); "Autographed Copy" sticker on front panel. Brodart protected. Bookseller Inventory # 003377

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Houseguest

Publisher: Dutton, New York

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine

Signed: Signed by Author

Edition: First Edition

About this title


In a novel set in 1934 Paterson, New Jersey, Irish independence fighter and recent widower Edward Devlin leaves his daughter in Ireland and heads for the U.S., his head filled with visions of his dead wife. 17,500 first printing.


The Houseguest begins with a death in rural Ireland, a young wife killed by tuberculosis. Agnes Devlin leaves behind an emotional, flaky husband and a 6-year-old daughter headed for a life of neglect. As Agnes Rossi's fine third novel opens, the girl hears her father screaming in whiskey grief. "She wanted the noise, the trouble, whatever it was had them shouting and slamming doors and starting cars in the middle of the night, to stop. She wanted to go on sleeping. Stop it, please. God, please. And then, to her surprise and intense relief, quiet. She waited. Was it going to last?" Later, she is driven to the house of her spinster aunt, a woman who thinks giving a girl an orange to eat is spoiling her.

Much of The Houseguest concerns the widower Edward, who leaves behind Ireland for America as the Great Depression looms. Happily, Fitz, an old acquaintance, offers him a room in his house in Paterson, New Jersey. Soon Edward is in love again--this time with Fitz's wife, Sylvia--and his grief subsides, replaced by self-involved, desperate infatuation. One night, when the husband his away, the two go dancing:

Edward felt all the dreariness of the last months working its way out of his system. The smoky air, the effect of the guzzled whiskey, the fullness of Sylvia in his arms, healthy Sylvia who moved so well, the sound of swing, its exuberance that seemed hard-won, grounded, that was in no way trivial, a kind of wise liveliness, like genuine laughter in the middle of a bad time.
Even as Edward forgets the daughter he left behind, the reader never does, and that is what's so masterful about The Houseguest. As Rossi explores the narcissism of both love and grief, and the way lovers become a circle of two--with no place for a pathetic, precocious child--she reveals herself a gifted storyteller. Judging from this elegant, searing novel, seen from several viewpoints, this author has a million tales in her mind burning to be told. --Emily White

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