The depredations of time on the ageing human is an unusual topic for a young writer to confront, especially in a first novel, but why not, if the negative capability is not wanting? After all, it’s common enough for an older writer to inhabit young characters. The difference is, of course, that a young writer hasn’t yet been old. In Fiona McFarlane’s first novel, The Night Guest, the main centre of consciousness, through whom the whole narrative is perceived, is more than twice the author’s age. In an interview in the Sydney Morning Herald, McFarlane revealed that both her grandmothers suffered from dementia and that writing about Ruth, a seventy-five-year-old widow who is clearly becoming increasingly confused (the D-word is never used), is an act of homage and remembrance.