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The Party

by Elizabeth Day
The book cover for The Party by Elizabeth Day

Cruelty, conceit and the Class of the 1980s

The cover blurb states ‘Brideshead Revisited meets The Talented Mr Ripley’…that’s close to hubris: those are two sacred novels! But The Party actually delivers and I loved every page of its delicious, thrilling and sharply observed journey.

The novel opens in 2015 with Martin Gilmour, the Art Critic of London’s Bugle newspaper, helping police with their enquiries. He’s uncomfortable, but clearly not in the frame for what ever it is that’s taken place at The Party.

Cut to the 1980s and Martin is growing up with his repressed, bereaved and cold-to-the-bone mother. He’s a bright boy and despite the emotional and financial privations of home, wins a scholarship to a decent boarding school where he is inevitably a bit of a misfit until he engineers himself access to the social circle of the effortlessly charming, handsome and tiresomely wealthy and well connected Ben Fitzmaurice and a close friendship forms. Well, it’s close on one side anyway.

Cut away again and this time we’re hearing from Martin’s wife, recuperating after some sort of breakdown and talking to her therapist. If Martin’s childhood was bleak and occasionally cruel, it’s no surprise to learn that being married to him wasn’t a walk in the park either. But then, that’s just her side of the story and it takes two…

And so the pattern is set and switching between scenes and eras in Martin’s life continues through the book. Day ensures that none of these jar and indeed the action flows seamlessly as Martin inveigles himself into the bosom of the comfortably entitled Fitzmaurice clan and the family seat itself, uses his brains to get into Cambridge while Ben simply swans in and so on. The haves keep having and the have-nots, well, they read Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War and bide their time.

Some fab satirical set pieces follow, some tragedy occurs and Martin sticks to his friend’s side throughout…and then The Party happens. Fiendishly thrilling and beautifully written, The Party ticked all my literary boxes

Posted on 24th July 2017