I remember hearing a lot of positive buzz about The Party when it was published last year, so much so that I downloaded an excerpt on to my Kindle immediately. And then promptly forgot about it until a friend mentioned it again a few weeks ago and I thought that it was time to give it a whirl. She really enjoyed it, so I went in expecting great things but to be honest came away feeling a little bit underwhelmed. Don’t you hate it when that happens?! So without further ado, here’s my review of The Party.
I totally see its appeal in that it’s a Big Little Lies esque, cautionary tale that depicts what goes on behind the glossy facade of an affluent circle where everything is not as it seems, and a tragic event causes fault lines in relationships to form and grow. Because let’s be honest it’s a well-trodden path and good novel fodder but sadly this iteration of a popular theme didn’t quite hit the mark for me.
The blurb on the book reads:
In this stunning and provocative domestic drama about a sweet sixteen birthday party that goes horribly awry, a wealthy family in San Francisco finds their picture-perfect life unravelling, their darkest secrets revealed, and their friends turned to enemies.
One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.
Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming-of-age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?
What could go wrong indeed. Quite a lot as it turns out! But should you fancy a read yourself – as we all have different opinions, so I’d urge you to make up your own mind – I don’t want to spoil the plot so let me just give you my overarching thoughts.
The biggest issue for me is that I disliked all of the characters; particularly the mum with whom I wanted to empathise the most yet ended up caring for the least. She’s a Stepford mum; a self-important, snobby, self-proclaimed Supermum, who after a truly awful incident occurs under her roof, is more concerned with the legalities and refuting any culpability rather than the victim herself.
I get that she’s a lonely woman who is struggling in a failing marriage and has developed a sleeping tablet and white wine habit as a coping mechanism but no parent that I know would host a sleepover, and therefore be responsible for other people’s children and not check on them once, thinking it was acceptable to set the rules, then leave the children to it whilst they slept off their booze and pill cocktail. Just implausible!
And on a similarly unattractive note, the dad’s behaviour with the worldly and manipulative friend of his daughter is hard to comprehend. Sneaking a bottle of bubbles into his daughter’s birthday party behind his wife’s back is one thing but asking the girls to lie for him and then sneaking out and allowing himself to be manipulated by a troubled teen just didn’t sit well in the plausibility stakes for me. Why would he put teenagers in such a difficult situation and moreover put himself in that position?
All of that being said, and as always trying to see the positive, I read The Party in basically one sitting so clearly was engaged to some degree; to be honest I think that I was hoping for salvation and for the storyline and characters to redeem themselves in the end and I’m just not convinced that they did.
Look I don’t need fairies, unicorns and happy endings – well not every time anyway – but the ending for me was unsatisfactory in that no lessons seemed to have been learned. But then maybe that was the point. Life is flawed after all.
Would I recommend it to others? Well the writing didn’t blow my socks off; it was fairly spare. That being said it was very readable and the kind of book that you’d have a good old chat about at book club, more for the subject matter than the beauty of the prose, and that’s not to be sniffed at is it?
So those are my thoughts about The Party. Have you read it and what did you think, I’d love to know?!
And if you’d like to read some of my other reviews, head on over to my Books page now!