REGRETS ONLY Among this summer’s many cancellations: wedding drama of the kind that leads you to gossip with cousins over mini quiche and lukewarm champagne. The British author Lucy Foley appears to have scratched our itch for matrimonial distraction; her runaway best seller, “The Guest List,” is now in its 10th week on the hardcover fiction list, currently at No. 5. This murder mystery revolves around a wedding, which may be the key to its popularity with the socially distanced set. Foley says: “Maybe people are reading it and thinking, ‘Things could be worse. I could be stuck in the middle of nowhere with this lot.’”
As our reviewer put it, “Is it really a good idea to have a wedding on a possibly haunted island full of ancient bodies buried in the peat, especially with a major storm brewing?”
Foley originally intended to have the festivities and misfortunes take place on a Greek island. “I always like to set books in places I’d like to travel to,” she says. “I did do a research trip to a Greek island and that was quite nice, but it just wasn’t gelling.” Foley found herself in Ireland, exploring Inishbofin, a rocky island off the coast of Connemara, where half of her family is from. It was love (and inspiration) at first sight: “I stood there, looking out at the Atlantic, feeling this constant wind buffeting me, and thought, ‘This is my island.’ It’s very beautiful on one hand — you can imagine it being a place where people would want to have a wedding — but on the other, it can be a hostile environment and work against the characters, which it does.” Foley took pictures and videos to help herself remember the white sand, the turquoise water and the choppy surf that almost made her drop her phone over the side of a boat.
Despite her enthusiasm for big weddings — “I love going to them: knees up on the dance floor, everyone staggering home at the end of the night” — Foley and her husband tied the knot in front of only 16 guests in London. “My mum, bless her, I felt like I let her down. So in a sense, this book was like, ‘Look Mum, this is what could happen at a big wedding,’” Foley says. “The ones I’ve been to have been wonderful — very loving and special occasions — but it did get me thinking, you have all these interesting groups of people rubbing up against each other: family, old friends, new friends, work friends.” In “The Guest List,” she shows readers what can go wrong when worlds collide in a distant and hard-to-escape place.
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