The Party by Elizabeth Day
Dates Read: 20/04/2021-25/04/2021
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Despite pretty much every character being grossly unlikeable, I really rather enjoyed The Party. It feels like a polemic on the British class system and therefore super relevant in 2021. Ms Day chose a great title – the Party has multiple meanings within the context of the story. Is it a social event, shared political beliefs, an individual or a group of people? Or something else I haven’t thought of?
At times I felt like I was reading a hybrid of Brideshead Revisited and the Talented Mr Ripley. The main character, Martin, is narcissistic, obsessive and self-absorbed, unable to stand on his own merits and living in the shadow of his rich, landed friend, desperately aspiring to become something he never can. Slowly the author reveals the root of the connection and cleverly unravels it in some of the most uncomfortable (but hugely enjoyable) text I’ve read for a long time.
There really is only one character to like in here, Martin’s wife, Lucy. At first she comes across as nondescript, dull even, but we ultimately learn she’s the one who’s grounded and eminently sensible, despite having fallen, for a while at least, under Martin’s spell. Martin, Ben, Serena, everyone else – horrible, just horrible. Vacuous and self-serving, these aren’t people you want in your life.
I really enjoyed the structure of the novel, current events interspersed with backstory from Martin’s point of view, and Lucy’s diary extracts. It’s certainly not linear but this helps make it an absorbing read, although that may not suit everyone.
It underlines what we already know. The rich are a club – the only way to join them is to be born into them, they have all the wealth and all the power, are ruthless at getting what they want and if you’re not one of them you’re expendable.