The Visitors

The Visitors

“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....
  • Gallery/Scout Press | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501164033 | 
  • September 2017
List Price $11.99 (price may vary by retailer)

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Reading Group Guide

This readers group guide for The Visitors includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Marion Zetland, a timid, middle-aged spinster, lives with her authoritarian older brother in the decaying mansion of their childhood on the edge of a northern seaside resort. Marion tries to live by her brother’s rules: doing the shopping and the laundry, preparing their quotidian meals, and staying out of his business. With only her teddy bears and imaginary friends for comfort, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar.

But when John becomes suddenly ill, Marion must open the door to the other side and come face-to-face with the gruesome truth—and her own darkness.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. Consider Marion’s warning to herself about the noises from the cellar on the novel’s opening page: “Don’t think about it, she warned herself, or you’ll go mad, just like Great-aunt Phyllis” (p. 1). Is this a self-fulfilling prophecy? Does Marion go mad?

2. How does Marion’s childhood, particularly her parents’ old-fashioned and aloof parent see more

About the Author

Catherine Burns
Mark Frith Photography

Catherine Burns

Born in Manchester, Catherine Burns is a graduate of Trinity College, University of Cambridge. She worked as a bond trader in London before studying at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography and teaching film theory at the University of Salford. The Visitors is her debut novel.

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