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Old 10-15-2019, 06:07 AM   #1
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The Party by Elizabeth Day

'A taut psychological tale of obsession and betrayal set over the course of a dinner party.

Ben, who hails from old money, and Martin, who grew up poor but is slowly carving out a successful career as an art critic, have been inseparable since childhood. Ben's wife Serena likes to jokingly refer to Martin as Ben's dutiful Little Shadow.

Lucy is a devoted wife to Martin, even as she knows she'll always be second best to his sacred friendship. When Ben throws a lavish 40th birthday party as his new palatial country home, Martin and Lucy attend, mixing with the very upper echelons of London society.

But why, the next morning, is Martin in a police station being interviewed about the events of last night? Why is Lucy being forced to answer questions about her husband and his past? What exactly happened at the party? And what has bound these two very different men together for so many years?

A cleverly built tour of intrigue, THE PARTY reads like a novelistic board game of Clue, taking us through the various half-truths and lies its characters weave, as the past and present collide in a way that its protagonists could never have anticipated.'


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This is the MR Literary Club selection for October 2019, and is our 101st selection. Everyone is welcome so feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time; the more the merrier!



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Old 10-20-2019, 05:48 PM   #2
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I had to wait for my library hold to come through and just started the book this weekend. So far it is engaging my curiosity. Lots of people hiding lots of secrets and unreliable character narrations making it difficult to detect real truths. I'm sure there will be plenty of twists to come.
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Old 10-21-2019, 10:33 PM   #3
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FYI Kobo AU have this on special at the moment.
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Old 10-30-2019, 11:51 AM   #4
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That's a great deal. Thanks for linking, gmw.

I'm over a quarter in right now. It starts out almost over-the-top and surface, but then begins delving more into the nuances of the characters. And I agree, Bookworm_Girl, lots of secrets and lies (like the Mike Leigh film of that name in deceptiveness, if not anything else).
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Old 10-30-2019, 10:42 PM   #5
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I finished the book. Has anyone else? I’ve been silent to avoid revealing spoilers. I thought it started to lag in the middle (somewhat repetitious) and then picked up again.
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Old 10-30-2019, 11:04 PM   #6
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I haven’t (obviously, considering my last post, heh) though I don’t mind if the rest of you want to discuss spoilers now. I have more free time the rest of this week than normal so with luck I’ll finish soon. Now that we’re trying the 1st as sort of the mild ‘finish’ date I’m trying to get done closer to then.
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Old 10-31-2019, 02:53 AM   #7
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I'm ready to discuss. We can use spoiler tags.
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Old 10-31-2019, 04:21 PM   #8
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I am just getting going after spending some time on some biographies.

But no need to use spoiler tags, etc. Knowing others views about the book, the story line and the outcome beforehand just makes the reading less complicated for me; a lazy mind here you see .
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Old 11-02-2019, 12:36 PM   #9
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I'm closing in on around the 60% mark and I have a good amount of free time this weekend.

I still sometimes get a feeling as if the story is almost too colourful but I'm enjoying it nevertheless. I do feel once the story went to the boarding school days that the descriptions became more confident.

One issue I may have - and this depends on how the rest of the story and revelations play out - is Martin's sexuality. I feel, at least in the beginning, that it's handled in a somewhat outdated and hushed manner that I'm not sure if I buy for such a person in 2015 England. This will depend on what I find out about Martin and Lucy through the rest of the book, but in today's society I just have a hard time buying that such a young smart woman as Lucy would blindly believe Martin to be straight until the sudden epiphany she has that he loved Ben, or that there would have been no gossip or wondering around the office about his preferred type of partner. This also extends to Martin's boarding school- that he was teased, but not for possibly being gay despite being described as effeminate, doesn't seem realistic. Just, sexuality in general being so undiscussed at any of these locations seems odd.

However, I do wonder about some aspects of the narration being unreliable or not fully disclosed so I'm saving judgment until the end. This is especially in regard to Martin, who's not a normal chap regardless of sexuality, although Lucy being the more 'normal' one makes me wonder what else she may be hiding.

One funny thing to me so far is how little of the party has been seen, lol. I was expecting the book to be a tightly narrated account of one night but it's turned out to be mostly flashbacks to prior events all leading up to it, and the party is only now getting started.

Whoever compared this to The Talented Mr. Ripley and Brideshead Revisited were spot on. The story is different but it's almost like Day took direct inspiration from both those to create this, especially Ripley.

As for guesses as to what may be hidden, my first is regarding Lucy's miscarriage. I suspect it wasn't accidental. Either that Martin secretly gave her something to induce a miscarriage, or that she decided to induce one herself to keep Martin.

Finally, I really didn't think of this until well into the book, but (at the risk of giving away my age) I turned 40 in October and I can't believe I didn't realise sooner the coincidence in that I'm reading a book about a 40th birthday party.
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Old 11-02-2019, 06:51 PM   #10
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Whoever compared this to The Talented Mr. Ripley and Brideshead Revisited were spot on. The story is different but it's almost like Day took direct inspiration from both those to create this, especially Ripley.
One more thing, I forgot to mention that I also feel vibes of Gone Girl here. I'm not sure if there'll be any revelation like the one in that novel (which I won't mention what it is exactly to not spoil anyone), but certainly the narration of a mystery going back and forth between a married couple, and centred heavily on their marriage, is similar.
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Old 11-03-2019, 10:58 PM   #11
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Well I’ve just finished and I’m processing it, but the cat!
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Old 11-04-2019, 04:58 PM   #12
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I finished yesterday and found it an enjoyable read.

Yes, the cat .
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Old 11-05-2019, 01:55 AM   #13
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I'm glad you are both done and found the book enjoyable. I would like to read more by this author.

Now we can discuss the book with less fear of spoilers. I took notes while I was reading to keep track of what I was thinking about some of the potential twists that may be coming. It will be interesting to review those.

What do you think of the narrative technique? I thought who, when and where were important factors. It alternated between Martin and Lucy who were married (therefore on the same "team") and both unreliable. Would it have worked better with a single narrator or even multiple narrators including Ben and Serena? The timeline was also interesting. I had expected it to be more linear following the party and then the aftermath. Lastly, location was a factor in where the flashbacks were told from. It took me a while to figure out where Lucy was. These all contributed to the aspect of unreliability and lack of trust in what secrets the characters were hiding and what their motivations were for what they were telling the reader/interviewer.
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Old 11-10-2019, 05:02 PM   #14
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I'd also like to read more by Day. This was enjoyable. I felt like the plot and characters were close to derivative but she managed to make it all just different enough and made some of the characters, especially Martin, so multi-dimensional and rounded which I think helps greatly to breathe unique life into something worn before. I also thought the plot was in danger of falling off an edge of absurdity but she managed to make it all work by the end; perhaps that was her plan?

I do think the 'reveal' of what happened at the party was a bit lacklustre compared to how it'd been built up beforehand, but I had got involved enough by then in the story and characters not to care. And the ambiguous ending was a nice touch (and perhaps left the door open for a sequel at some point?).
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Old 11-10-2019, 05:20 PM   #15
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What do you think of the narrative technique? I thought who, when and where were important factors. It alternated between Martin and Lucy who were married (therefore on the same "team") and both unreliable. Would it have worked better with a single narrator or even multiple narrators including Ben and Serena?
It's interesting you saw Martin and Lucy as more 'on the same team'. For most of the book I saw them as mild antagonists since Martin was in a marriage of convenience, not love, and viewed Lucy almost as something like a glorified lackey (of course echoing Ben and Martin). By the end they had bonded more by the revelations of the night of the party though... despite it leading to their separation lol.

I liked the four-pronged narrative technique of Martin's past, Martin being interviewed, the night of the party, and Lucy's journal. It definitely gave the story a lot of layers and worked for me. I also liked the revelation at the end that Martin had written it all (I suppose using the journal of Lucy he'd somehow got?) and was still obsessed with Ben but now obsessed with revenge.

I mentioned before how it was rather unbelievable that neither in school nor at work the possibility of Martin being gay wasn't ever outright mentioned; however, in retrospect it worked because if Martin were writing it all, he might leave in the allusion to people thinking he might be different/gay but not let anyone in the recollections of his past actually say it per his own sensibilities. This ties into the unreliability of the narrative.

A single narrator wouldn't have worked as good in my opinion. I'm not sure how multiple narrators would've played out. Ben was well rounded but though he's good looking and charismatic, I'm not sure his internal dialogue would be as interesting as Martin or Lucy's. Serena was a somewhat flatter character and as is I think her narration would be boring unless her character were rounded out. I feel like I get what their side of the story would be- Martin is obsessed with Ben but because of what happened they'd been bound so far to play nice with him and his wife.
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