Book Review: The Party by Elizabeth Day

The Party by Elizabeth Day
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher: Little Brown & Company

Summary:  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 his 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. 

This was one of those stories that is peopled with character types readers have met before in situations they've read about before but somehow still manages to be a gripping tale that one can't put down. I love it when that happens.

Martin was just the sort of unreliable narrator that I love. It was interesting to see him lie to others but also believe the lies he told himself. I knew when he recounted killing the sparrow at school, that nothing was going to end very well for anyone connected to him. Martin is the cloying, obsessive who has progressed from boyhood friend to well past his sell by date, hanger-on. I felt badly for Lucy from the start and it was painful to watch her go from blindness to clarity with regard to Martin. Still, I was glad to read how things turned out for her in the end. Ben and his wife, while not likable or terribly deeply rendered characters, served their purpose in the story well. While I didn't at all like how Ben's family used Martin after "the tragic event", the way he had ingratiated and ensconced himself in their unit before "the tragic event" garnered no sympathy for me on Martin's behalf. They were all from hell and I just couldn't stop reading.

This was like an intersection of Highsmith's, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Koch's, The Dinner, Moriarty's, Big Little Lies or most recently Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. It's told in flashback by two characters leading up to the reveal of what's happened at the fateful party, that led to Martin at the police station, in the opening chapter. Definitely recommended and I'll definitely keep an eye out for the next by Day.

No comments