My review of The Visitors will follow the publisher’s blurb :

“Once you start Catherine Burns’s dark, disturbing, and enthralling debut novel, it’s hard to stop. The Visitors is bizarrely unsettling, yet compulsively readable.” —Iain Reid, internationally bestselling author of I’m Thinking of Ending Things

With the smart suspense of Emma Donoghue’s Room and the atmospheric claustrophobia of Grey Gardens, Catherine Burns’s debut novel explores the complex truths we are able to keep hidden from ourselves and the twisted realities that can lurk beneath even the most serene of surfaces.

Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother John in a crumbling mansion 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 live by John’s rules, even if it means turning a blind eye to the noises she hears coming from behind the cellar door…and turning a blind eye to the women’s laundry in the hamper that isn’t hers. For years, she’s buried the signs of John’s devastating secret into the deep recesses of her mind—until the day John is crippled by a heart attack, and Marion becomes the only one whose shoulders are fit to bear his secret. Forced to go down to the cellar and face what her brother has kept hidden, Marion discovers more about herself than she ever thought possible. As the truth is slowly unraveled, we finally begin to understand: maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side….


When I met Marion, the first thing I felt for this bullied little soul was pity, I liked her. I wanted to rescue her out of the pages. As for the rest of Marion’s family – I didn’t enjoy meeting them. I can’t imagine growing up without affection or love. It just tore me apart to read how Marion ended up after her parents died – surrounded by hording and a life in ruin. Then, things took a turn.

As the book goes on, it gets darker, much darker. I feel that even the slower parts are needed to fully get inside Marion head. I wouldn’t say the book is slow moving but more methodical in its design. Everything about Marion’s upbringing is essential to the story. Since this is suspense, I don’t want to give away the secret John and Marion are hiding instead I really would like for you to know how creepy and dark this novel is – it’s definitely not a thriller with action at every turn of the page.

For me, it was the tone of the novel that added to the reading experience. When I finished the last page and put down the novel, one of the first things that came to mind was Cathy Bates… she would make an excellent Marion.

I don’t know if I should love or hate Catherine Burns for making me struggle so much Marion’s character. It’s a cruel novel, exposing the ugliness of a loveless family. It dives deep into what it is to be in total denial. There are so many varying degrees of casualty, so many victims within its pages. It’s unpleasant, suspenseful but most of all – it’s crazy good.

By the end of the book, I didn’t know what to feel anymore. And though my emotions are all confused, one thing is absolute… The Visitors should be on top of your reading list. It’s a book you’ll want to discuss (perfect for a book club) because who knows — There may be a Marion in your neighbourhood.

One last thing before I end this review. I’m one of those readers that enjoys the tactile experience of reading as much as the words on the page therefore I must tell you how much I love the design of this cover. It’s not something I normally do but this one is extra special !! In certain places, the cover is embossed and texturized to give it a three dimensional feel. My pictures don’t do it justice but if you pass your fingers over the cover, it all becomes clear.

The Visitors by Catherine Burns – Available Now !
Gallery/Scout Press an imprint of Simon & Schuster
304 pages
ISBN 9781501164019

** An copy of The Visitors was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

1 comment on “[Book Review] The Visitors by Catherine Burns”

  1. I dislike the blurb comparing this to Room, it’s too simplistic and does neither book justice. Yes, this was a difficult read for me, but it was a lot less intense than what I went through with Room. I think partly that’s thanks to the slower sections that you mention; they help provide a more balanced feel to the book and play a big part in how things unfold. I do think I’ll have a similar love/hate thing with this book though – they’re both brilliant books, but they do such a good job of framing very difficult characters that they can be uncomfortable reading.

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