Supper Club by Lara Williams

If I start a book, I almost always finish it.  It’s a sort of stubbornness, but also, I always hope that it is going to redeem itself somewhere along the line.

Supper Club was a book I finished, but unfortunately I didn’t get along with at all.  It wasn’t for me.  I can see how, if recipes and talking about food are your bag, you might love it.

My fundamental problem was with the structure.  I like a book that I can put down and when I come back to it a couple of days later, I can pick up where I left off.   Not possible with Supper Club.

It jumped around so much, I didn’t know where I was from one reading to the next, and I read it every night to try and remedy this problem.

The book is written in the first-person narrative and centers around Roberta.  The story jumps between Roberta’s life at university where she struggles to fit in and make friends, and her current life, writing reviews for a fashion website where she meets the indomitable Stevie.

Stevie and Roberta set up the ‘Supper Club’ a club where women get together to eat, drink, and go wild. They source food from dumpsters (yes really) and leftover food from supermarkets.  Roberta is a great cook and rustles up all sorts of exotic dishes. Their behaviour during Supper Club is to behave as badly as possible.  Mash food everywhere, have food fights, eat and drink and take drugs till you are sick. Out of control.  They break in to places and demolish them.  Why?  It certainly doesn’t seem to make them feel any better about themselves, and I just didn’t see the point.

The idea that somehow this makes them feminists and is sticking it up to the patriarchy just seemed a ridiculous idea to me.  What are they trying to prove?  That they can eat until they are sick?  Way to go.

The redeeming aspects of the story are the descriptions of the food and the descriptions of Roberta’s loneliness. What I hated, were the recipes that were just dropped into the novel a propos of nothing.  They jarred with me as they spoilt the flow of the narrative.

Towards the end, I did enjoy the narrative regarding Roberta and Stevie’s friendship and some of the descriptive writing is exceptionally astute and beautiful, but overall, I am afraid this novel just frustrated me.   If you have read it and enjoyed it, perhaps you can enlighten me?!  I have such respect for writers, and there is no doubt that Lara Williams is an exceptionally gifted writer.  This novel just wasn’t for me.

supper club

 

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

The sales from this novel have left publishers astonished.  Not just because of its phenomenal success, but because of the duration of that success.  What has made this such an outlier in the publishing world?   Some may say the fascinating back story has something to do with it.

I’m not going to get into that here, but there’s plenty about it online if you are so inspired.

My interest in the book lay partly due to the author having spent time in Zambia, where I grew up.  There’s no doubt she has led a fascinating life – and I intend to read one of her other books called ‘The Eye of the Elephant.’

where the crawdads sing

The novel starts poignantly as four-year-old Kya watches her mother walk down the road with her suitcase, without looking back.  Kya doesn’t know it then, but her mother is never coming back.  Left with her siblings who are all much older than her, and are leaving home fast, Kya is soon abandoned and isolated.  Her father is a chronic alcoholic and she spends much of her time hiding from his temper.   Her mother had taken one beating too many – hence her departure.

Kya’s journey of survival begins at a very young age.  By the time she reaches her teens, she is completely alone and has been nicknamed ‘The marsh girl,’ by the residents of this small town in North Carolina.

Running parallel to Kya’s story is the story of the murder of a young man, Chase Andrews, the town’s rich kid and a former high school quarterback.

I believe the reason this book continues to be on the bestseller list is due to several factors.  The author’s evident passion for, and beautiful descriptions of the natural world.   The marsh is so vividly evoked, I could totally lose myself in the depictions, such as ‘the ballet of fireflies,’ mentions of egrets, slate coloured skies, cicadas and gulls.  Kya immerses herself wholly and completely into her surroundings.  It is her security and her sole comfort.

Its success is also because it is a gripping tale of survival in a very unusual setting.  We all love a story of someone fighting to survive against all the odds.  Every day is a battle for Kya.  She battles to feed herself, to fight off the nasty young men who are all secretly attracted to her, and to survive the loneliness that threatens to engulf her.  Small town gossip and racial tensions heighten the atmosphere.  In fact, Kya’s only two supporters are a coloured couple who are mainly ostracised from the community themselves.

Finally, this book is a winner because the prose is evocative, engaging, lyrical and character driven.  I cared about what happened to Kya, I was rooting for her from her childhood onwards.  We love a story of the underdog winning in the end.  But does she?  You’ll have to read it to find out!

It’s brilliant.  Just read it! You are in for an absolute treat!

Reviews of The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

The Paris Wife is based upon the true story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley.  They meet in the 1920s in Chicago and immediately form a strong bond.  After a whirlwind courtship they go to Paris where Ernest believes his writing career will flourish.

This is where the trouble begins as their glamourous life becomes more than a little complicated.

The story is narrated in the first person by Hadley which gives it a beautiful immediacy and poignancy.   The characters are well developed, and the descriptions of Paris made my yearn to visit the city I love so much.

This is a beautifully written love story about the devastation of betrayal and the importance of loyalty.  It is about friendship, love and jealousy and what happens when your boundaries are blown apart.    The writing is elegant and the prose hypnotic.  It transported me to a different world, and I found it fully engaging.   I recommend this book highly.  In one word it is stunning.

photo of The Paris Wife and Exit West

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

I was completely blown away by this author’s book – ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ when I read it about five years ago.  So, I was eager to read Exit West.   Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed Exit West, it didn’t captivate me as ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ had, but that’s not to say it’s not a great read.

Hamid has the gift of writing beautifully stark prose that captures a moment in time in technicolour.

Written in the third person, Exit West tells the story of Saeed and Nadia who both live in an unnamed city where war has broken out.  They meet at an evening class. Saeed is the son of a university professor and Nadia lives alone and wears a full black robe, despite it not being compulsory in their society.  She says it is a form of protection, so we understand women are not treated with anything close to the respect they deserve by the patriarchy. As Saeed and Nadia’s relationship develops, the fighting escalates, and they know they must escape or risk death.

Now, I must confess this is the bit of the story I couldn’t quite get my head around – they escape through these ‘doors’ and do not know where they will find themselves.  Of course, I understand it is a metaphor and the author employs the use of magical realism, but it didn’t quite work for me, and it did take away from the story somewhat.   The first place they find themselves in is Mykonos in Greece.  They stay there for a while before then going to London and then to Marin in San Francisco.

The author’s gift lies in portraying what life is like for refugees and the awful realities for those who are fleeing war torn countries.

What I loved most about this novel were the descriptions.  This one struck me as particularly prescient given the times we are currently in, when Saeed contemplates his grief:

‘and he touched a feeling that we are all children who lose our parents, all of us……and this loss unites humanity, unites every human being, the temporary nature of our being-ness, and our shared sorrow……Saeed felt it might be possible, in the face of death, to believe in humanity’s potential for building a better world.’

This is another poignant love story, thought-provoking and heart-breaking. Highly recommend.

 

 

 

Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor

Set in 1878 in London this novel is an atmospheric tour de force.  Telling the story of Bram Stoker’s life as a theatre manager in London where he meets the eccentric and fabulously talented actor and Chief of the Lyceum Theatre Henry Irving and his leading lady, the enigmatic and beautiful Ellen Terry.  Although a work of fiction, it is based on real events, making it (if it were possible) an even more fascinating read.

shadowplay image

Bram Stoker had been a theatre critic in Dublin which is where he came to the attention of Henry Irving.  Irving invites him to manage the Lyceum Theatre in London.    Bram has just married Florence Balcombe in haste, and both will repent at leisure.  She was the former flame of Oscar Wilde, who makes a brief appearance in the novel.  Stoker becomes bewitched by the beautiful Ellen Terry and his obsession with both her and his work at the theatre leaves Florence abandoned and desolate.

The novel is structured in Three Acts and the story includes a mix of letters, witness testimony and recollections.  The atmosphere is what makes this novel utterly captivating.  London in all its gothic undertones, as the Jack the Ripper murders cast a dark shadow and the haunted theatre seems destined to curses and misfortune.

The relationship between Bram Stoker and Henry Irving adds greatly to the story.  Although Irving treats Stoker with disdain and utter contempt, he needs Stoker more than Stoker needs him, and their co-dependent relationship becomes a true friendship by the end.  Or at least I like to believe it does!

Joseph O’Connor has such a talent for making a city come alive on the page and the atmosphere of London and the goings on in the theatre make this novel an absolute joy to read.  His writing is incandescent, and I would re-read this novel happily, knowing I would get something more from it every time.

It’s a fascinating look at the writer of one of the most enduring classics of our time – Dracula, and the demons he faced as a writer and a man.

I recommend this novel without hesitation.  One of my favourite reads in a long time.  I will now dash off to order ‘Ghost Light’ which I believe is also set in the theatre.

Emilie Pine Notes to Self

Anne Enright’s quote on the front of this book is ‘Do not read this book in public: it will make you cry.’  Sage advice. I am not usually a big fan of the essay, but if ever there was a book that changed my mind, this was it.

notes to self imageNotes to Self

There are six essays in total.  Each between twenty to forty pages long.  The author is an Associate Professor of Modern Drama at University College Dublin, and my oh my can she write.

The first essay is entitled ‘Notes on Intemperance.’  It deals with her father’s alcoholism and how she cared for him when he was admitted to hospital in Corfu (where he was living at the time.)

I nearly stopped reading after the first few pages, as the descriptions are so graphic and so grim. Thank goodness I kept going.  The writing is raw, full of emotion and such truth.  I had to re-read several sentences, as I couldn’t believe Emilie Pine had the courage to put them down on the page.

The Second essay is entitled ‘From the Baby Years.’  Well if the first one was tough, this one nearly finished me off altogether!  In this essay Ms Pine talks about her struggle to conceive, and her doubts about whether she actually wanted to conceive in the first place.  There was so much of this essay with which I could identify, and it took me back to some incredibly painful times.  My favourite part though is the end of the essay where she writes:

“Though we do not have the joy of biological children, there are many ways to have a childful life.  And, it turns out, there are many ways to enjoy a childfree life, a recent, and important, shift of emphasis for me.  I am done marking myself through absence.  I am done using the word ‘failure’ about my body.  I am done living and writing that story.   This is the moment that we get to look around, find our own balance, and enjoy the view from where we are.”

Beautifully expressed and oh so true.

The next essay entitled ‘Speaking/Not Speaking,’ deals with her parents’ divorce and is again revealing, illuminating and opens up painful truths to the writer herself.

In the fourth essay entitled ‘Notes on Bleeding and Other Crimes,’ Emilie Pine deals with the taboo subject of periods, bleeding, and all other aspects of women’s bodies that we have been asked to keep quiet about for fear of upsetting those who can’t handle it.  Well, the author is saying, I am keeping quiet no longer.  Women bleed, get over it!

She brilliantly compares how unashamed of our bodies we are when children as compared to adults:

“As I think about the confluence of bodies and silence, I remember back to when pain was something to talk about, when our bodies were the subject of a show-and-tell.  Aged seven I would roll up my trouser leg and narrate the scars – from the dog bite, or the jumping off the shed roof, or from the rusty nail scratch that got infected.”

My favourite essay is the penultimate essay entitled ‘Something About Me.’   In this essay the author talks about her extremely troubled youth.  How she developed an eating disorder and how she struggled to cope with everything about her life, despite showing a brave and undaunted persona to the outside world.  This essay is heart-breaking because no-one stepped in to help, because no-one took enough time or trouble to notice.  Not a teacher, not a parent and not a friend.  This is how young girls so easily get lost in the system.  The author is clearly a deeply sensitive and (at the time) extremely troubled soul, and so she gave away her love and her body without a second thought, so desperate was her need to be noticed. Her own mother was struggling financially and did not have the energy herself to care for a wayward daughter, although she tried on occasion.

Although it is a miracle she survives unscathed, it is not the all of her life.  It covers a period of eight years from which she recovers and learns.  She is unflinchingly honest, and it is such a raw and insightful piece of writing.  The author recounts how difficult it was to put it on the page:

“These pages cover a period of about eight years.  They contain many events and emotions that I have never told to anyone before, or even admitted to myself.  The experience of writing them out has been very painful. That I cannot, or have not, avoided this pain by choosing not to write the story is due to one simple reason: the urge to write this feels not only dangerous and fearful and shameful, but necessary. I write this now to reclaim those parts of me that for so long I thoroughly denied.”

This could be the message of the whole book of essays, and we are the lucky recipients, for in her courage and honesty, we can see ourselves reflected and our experiences mirrored.

Emilie Pine ends the book with an essay entitled ‘This is not on the Exam.’  It is a beautiful piece about a woman’s belief that she must do it all, have it all and be it all.  After putting herself through a punishing regime at work that pushed her right to the edge of a breakdown, she examines the cultural aspects of being a woman in academia, and what is both expected of you and the assumption that you will do your job, be quiet and be good.  I found it staggering that the misogynistic, antiquated, sexist views and attitudes still exist, but apparently, they are alive and well which is not good enough.  Fortunately, the author concludes that the work will never be done.  It is never enough, and it is up to her to put a value on herself and look after her own mental health.

In spite of the fear she is doing it anyway and you can’t ask for more than that.

A superb book of essays.  Buy a box of tissues and enjoy!

 

 

Reviews of He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly and Three Women by Lisa Taddeo.

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly.

This is a thriller that does not disappoint.  The story is told through the perspectives of Kit and his wife Laura and partly through their ‘friend’ Beth.

Following eclipses around the world are Kit’s passion and the author cleverly uses this as a framing technique for each chapter, as well as a metaphor for the darkness/light of this unfolding drama.

he said she said

 

The narrative goes back and forth in time between 1999 and 2015.  Kit and Laura go to a festival in Cornwall to see an eclipse in 1999.  Laura stumbles upon a young woman (Beth) being sexually assaulted.  She calls the police and the novel follows the events after the attack.

Friends who have read this book have raved about it, and I must agree with their raving!

It is unputdownable.  Just read it now! You can thank me later.  Full of plot twists and turns which are wholly unpredictable.  Relatable characters and a creepy storyline that has you guessing from start to finish.  I loved it.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo.

This is my book of the year so far!  I was concerned that the hype was overdone, but for once I agree wholeheartedly with all the praise.  A brilliant book.   I didn’t realize until I started reading it that it was based on real people and real events, which just made it even more engrossing.

three women

Based on extensive interviews, Taddeo tells the stories of three women; Sloane, Maggie and Lina.

The book is written in the third person and reads like a novel which adds greatly to the dynamic.  Sloane, a rich over achieving socialite who owns a restaurant with her husband, sleeps with other men while her husband watches. They both enjoy the thrill of it. Taddeo explores Sloane’s motivations, history and tragic vulnerability with incredible skill and exquisite prose.

Maggie’s story I found the most interesting of all.  She has an affair with her teacher while she is underage.  She later testifies against him for statutory rape and is belittled, humiliated and cast out by those in her community. Maggie has to watch from the side lines as this teacher wins awards and the adulation and support of all those around him, while he acts as if she never existed. Maggie, of all three women, wakes up to what has happened, how she has been mistreated and the scales fall from her eyes in relation to the true character of this man. Taddeo handles this story with sensitivity but does not shy away from brutal truths about all those involved.

The final story for me was pitiful.  Lina is gang raped as a teenager, not even aware during the incident how horrific it is, due to being drunk and drugged.  She never realizes the significance of what has happened to her. It also signals the end of the romance with her childhood sweetheart Aidan.  Years later when Lina is married to a man who withholds affection and barely acknowledges her existence, Lina meets Aidan again and begins an affair.  Her lack of self-awareness and her desperation to please only increase through the affair.   Whilst I definitely felt pity for her, she was the only character I felt frustrated with, because she deserved so much better.

The stories of all three women are so full of humanity, it would make you want to cry.  The stories illustrate in stark reality what happens when women do not love or respect themselves (often due to circumstances in childhood or other.)  There is also the sense that these women are not supported by other women in the way they should be.  Indeed, the author suggests as much in the prologue:

“it’s women . . . who have a greater hold over other women than men have. We can make each other feel dowdy, whorish, unclean, unloved, not beautiful.”

This is one of the most unique books I have ever read.  It was shocking, yet believable, compassionate yet cruel.  There were so many contradictions and I was left with the overwhelming feeling that although horrific events can happen to us in our lives, what matters are the choices we make afterwards.  Unfortunately for these three women, those choices were not always the wisest, though they may have been the most understandable.

Please let me know your thoughts on either of the books above.  I would love to know what you thought.

 

Two Short Reviews of Summer Reading!

I am enjoying some light reading over the summer months, so just posting some brief thoughts on the two books I have read recently.

The first was The Woman in The Window by A.J. Finn.

the woman in the window

This is a psychological thriller in the style of ‘The Girl on the Train.’

Dr Anna Fox is a child psychologist who has developed severe agoraphobia due to a traumatic event and cannot leave the house.  She lives alone in an upmarket neighbourhood of New York.  She drinks copious amounts of Merlot, chats to people online and spies on her neighbours with a long lens camera.

The novel is about what happens when she hears a blood curdling scream coming from across the road at her neighbour’s house, ‘The Russells.’

I found this a thoroughly enjoyable read, if complete nonsense at times.  If you can suspend your disbelief about certain events, then you are in for an enjoyable time.  If you are stickler for realism, this may not be for you!

It moves along at a ferocious pace, so boredom was never a problem for me.  I found the main character likeable and believable for the most part.  I did suspect something about the person who turns out to be the murderer, but I was never 100% sure. Another plot twist I guessed immediately, but there was one I didn’t get.   So pretty good if you like your thrillers to keep you guessing!

What I didn’t like (very similar to The Girl on the Train) was how together, competent and razor sharp the main character could be, having just downed the guts of two bottles of wine.  This really bugs me about these types of thrillers.  OK, so maybe I have a low tolerance to alcohol, and the character has built up a huge tolerance, but what she is able to achieve whilst supposedly ‘drunk,’ really stretches the limits of plausibility in anyone’s language!

However, if you are looking for an entertaining beach read, look no further!

Now, important question.  Is anyone watching ‘Tales of the City,’ on Netflix?

tales of the city image

It popped up on my recommended list and I had heard about the books by Armistead Maupin, so off I went in search of more info.  It turns out there are many books in the series – 9 to be exact, but I ventured forth nonetheless and read the first one.

Set in the 1970s in San Francisco, it’s about Mary Anne Singleton who arrives in the city, and rents a place at 28 Barbary Lane. The book follows an endearing cast of eccentric characters who either live in Barbary Lane or know someone who does.  The writing is witty, the characters superbly drawn.  My only gripe – and it’s a small one – was that I didn’t get several of the cultural references.  I am now interested to check out the original T.V. series which is online at channel4.com.

I think I’ll see what the original T.V series is all about. I would love it if you could let me know if you are watching it on Netflix.  Apparently, it’s a continuation of the story, but me being me, I need to know what I may have missed!

I haven’t decided yet if I’ll read any more of the Armistead Maupin series. I would be happy to, but there are too many other books I want to read first.

Next book on the reading list – He said/She said by Erin Kelly.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

I have been contemplating what it is about Kate Atkinson’s novels that I enjoy so much and have concluded that it is not just her style of writing, which is so effortlessly brilliant, but the way she writes humour.  She writes these witty asides of what her characters are really thinking, and they are just so endearing and true to life.

I have been a huge fan of Kate Atkinson since I read ‘Life after Life’ and ‘A God in Ruins.’

This novel was much more of a slow burner for me.  It took me a while to get going.  It’s not what I would call a page turner, but it’s still fabulous, nonetheless.

The story centers around Juliet Armstrong who in 1950 is working for the BBC.  The story then takes us back to 1940 where we discover she worked as a secret agent. The novel runs along these two parallel strands of the 1940s and the 1950s.

During the Second World War Juliet is employed by M.I.5 and taken to a flat in London, where she is told she will be transcribing what goes on in the next-door flat which is bugged.   An agent called Godfrey Toby is sent undercover to listen to the secrets of a group of British Nazi sympathizers in the flat next door to Juliet, while she is taking down every word.    The conversations are mundane, but Juliet’s life takes an unexpected turn when both her and Godfrey’s boss, a man named Perry gives her a job in the inner circle, where she goes undercover as Iris-Carter Jenkins and befriends a British Nazi Sympathizer called Mrs Scaife.   This is where the book really came to life for me (about a quarter of the way in) and from then on, the intrigue develops, and the plot really does thicken (sorry!)

However, Juliet takes it all in her stride and seems totally underwhelmed by the drama unfolding around her.  She is even bored at times – “There was a better life somewhere, Juliet supposed, if only she could be bothered to find it.”

Although I found this novel a slow starter, the prose is beautiful, full of humour and wry observations, and if you can stick with it, it’s a rewarding read in my view.

I have included a link below to some quotes from the novel on Good Reads. For if you need convincing of what a glorious writer Kate Atkinson is, read them and weep!

https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/64175388-transcription

 

 

 

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Melissa, Michael, Stephanie and Damian – the four friends in ‘Ordinary People’ have discovered that: “Adult life has fully revealed itself, wearing a limp, grey dressing gown.”

I would suspect there aren’t many married couples with children who can’t identify with many of the sentiments and behaviours found in Evan’s extraordinary novel.

Both couples live in London.  Michael and Melissa in 13 Paradise Row in Crystal Palace and Damian and Stephanie live in Dorking.

ordinary people by diana evansOrdinary People on Amazon

Evans focuses her attention primarily on M&M (as they are known to some of their friends) and specifically on Melissa. She is a freelance journalist, an independent spirit who is beautiful, cool, and feeling utterly suffocated by the chores of domesticity.  An earth mother she is not.  Michael after thirteen years together is still entranced by her, but even he is feeling worn down by life and by Melissa’s coldness towards him. Her unhappiness permeates their life.

Their house is another character in the book and is a metaphor for Melissa’s increasingly fragile state.  The more the house deteriorates, the more her mind follows suit.

Meanwhile Stephanie is a no-nonsense earth mother who adores her children and puts up with her husband.  I felt it was a pity that the author did not spend more time on this couple. They seemed to be making up the numbers a lot of the time, especially Stephanie.  She was the most sensible of the foursome, so perhaps less interesting to the writer, but I would have liked more of her. I admired her resilience and her capacity for getting on with life.

Evans prose is majestic.  She allows the miseries of the characters to unravel slowly, while London is described in Dickensian terms and adds to the stifling, sometimes hectic slightly crazy atmosphere.

Music plays a large part in the novel – indeed the title is taken from a John Legend song which include the lyrics: “This ain’t the honeymoon/ passed the infatuation stage.”

Both couples are also strongly rooted in their heritage.  Melissa feeds her children Eba and follows superstitions passed down from her African mother.

I adored everything about this novel.  The prose is gloriously atmospheric.  The story never felt depressing, just intense, and such a vivid, portrayal of ordinary lives that I was genuinely sorry when I finished it. The characters will live on in my memory for some time to come.  There is also a wonderful slightly bizarre gothic twist towards the end which I didn’t see coming, but which, although surprising, was not at all out of place.

Reader beware though – if you are going through a difficult time in a marriage or a relationship, the intensity may be too much.  On the other hand, it may provide some comfort to read of others’ struggles.   I leave that decision up to you!  For most people (I hope!!) I couldn’t recommend this highly enough.  A wonderful book.

 

 

 

The Party by Elizabeth Day

Elizabeth Day moved to Northern Ireland when she was 4.  During her life she has lived in several different countries and attended boarding school as a child.  She said she always felt an outsider.

the party by elizabeth dayThe Party by Elizabeth Day

She wrote ‘The Party’ following an extremely difficult period in her life. She had fertility treatment, she suffered a miscarriage and the break-up of her marriage.  On the writing of this book she said, “it came from a place of untrammelled honesty. It came from a place of me.”

Her understanding of suffering and anger is evident and visceral.

This is Elizabeth’s Day’s 4th novel and in my opinion it’s a belter.  The sort of novel that has you aching to get back to it, sneaking an extra couple of pages while you should be doing something else.  Engrossing, with intense characterization – a delicious reading experience in every way.

The story is told in alternative 1st person narratives by Martin and Lucy who are married.  The plot jumps between the present day and Martin re-living his past. Martin and Lucy also fill us in on how they met and how they have come to be where they are now, neither is in a good place either literally or metaphorically speaking (no spoilers!)

Martin is an only child who suffered at the hands of his controlling unaffectionate mother.  His life changes when he is sent off to boarding school and meets the glamourous and worldly Ben Fitzmaurice.  This is where the novel becomes a little ‘The Talented Mr Ripley.’  Martin sees a different life for himself and goes to dramatic lengths to get what he wants.

Ben and Martins’ lives become entangled in a way in which escape for either is impossible.

The novel is structured by Martin’s interview at a police station following Ben’s extravagant 40th Birthday party.  We know something dreadful has happened – but what and to whom?  This is only one element of what kept me turning the pages.

How could Martin be so cold on the one hand and yet seemingly caring on the other?  Love turns to obsession and therein lies the inherent danger of human suffering.

This is also a novel about entitlement and the power and abuse that can occur with untold privilege.  Ben Fitzmaurice has had everything he ever wanted his entire life.  He is charming, intelligent and on the surface, apart from being a little superficial, he could be an all-round good guy.  Until we begin to perceive his complete lack of empathy and understanding for Martin’s experiences in life. Ben has a total lack of self-awareness and is entirely unwilling to take responsibility for his failings.   He is weak.

The heroine of the novel is Lucy.  She may initially appear downtrodden and desperate for Martin to like her, but her courage and anger propel her  forward, and as she comes to the realization that many women do later in life, that she is worth loving and doesn’t have to be ‘the perfect wife,’ we see her glorious true self emerge.   Elizabeth Day says of writing about Lucy:

“I loved writing Lucy, because it was a cathartic experience in many respects……And what I wanted to do with ‘The Party’ is show that a woman can be as empowered by her anger as a man. I think we’d live in a much healthier society if women just faced their anger, realised it was part of them and that it can be a really creative stimulus, in the same way happiness can be or love can be.”

Martin’s anger is destructive, where Lucy’s is cathartic.

This novel had me hooked from the first few pages.  The writing seems effortless (I have no doubt it was anything but!) the characterization is brilliant.  Elizabeth Day has recently written a non-fiction book entitled ‘How to Fail.’  I am breathless with anticipation to read that and her back catalogue of novels. Oh, the joy of finding a new writer that I love never gets old!  I hope you enjoyed the novel as much as I did, and if you haven’t read it yet, take it on your hols, you can thank me later!