May’s Book of The Month is After The Party by Cressida Connolly and this is our Big Review.
After The Party, The Blurb
“Had it not been for my weakness, someone who is now dead could still be alive. That is what I believed and consequently lived with every day in prison.’
It is the summer of 1938 and Phyllis Forrester has returned to England after years abroad. Moving into her sister’s grand country house, she soon finds herself entangled in a new world of idealistic beliefs and seemingly innocent friendships. Fevered talk of another war infiltrates their small, privileged circle, giving way to a thrilling solution: a great and charismatic leader, who will restore England to its former glory.
At a party hosted by her new friends, Phyllis lets down her guard for a single moment, with devastating consequences. Years later, Phyllis, alone and embittered, recounts the dramatic events which led to her imprisonment and changed the course of her life forever.”
This review is written with the expectation you have read After The Party. If that’s not you yet, bookmark the page and come back.
Reading the above blurb I initially presumed After The Party was going to be about a party where a death would occur. I didn’t think for a second that main character Phyllis was actually going to be responsible for the death, only that her conscious would not allow her to think otherwise. I was about half of the way through before it began to creep up on me that actually we might be talking about a different kind of party here. Sarita’s death when it came to it was actually quite insignificant and, if I’m honest, a bit pointless?
A right unlike-able lot
I thought Connolly really captured the period well, with the stream of dinner parties, pony riding children and well defined wife and husband roles. However I always struggle to like a book if I don’t like the characters. Whereas I found Phyllis bland and too naive, it was the supporting cast that were really unpalatable. The pig incident in particular highlighting that these are not friends I would like to be mixing with.
Follow the leader
I’m showing naivety here but I was completely unaware of the British Union of Fascists! I’m in my 30s, however World War Two is something I read about regularly. I was surprised then to have not come across this part of history before. Our dirty secret perhaps? It was difficult to get a grasp from the book how serious a threat the party posed. Phyllis certainly was very vague and tied it all up in a summer camp bow. Was emphasising how many sausages would be needed for tomorrows breakfast just naivety or was she deliberately distancing herself? The celebrating every year of the leader’s birthday would seem to indicate the former. In any event reading about how people were taken from their homes, put in prison, and left there for years was interesting to read. It has certainly prompted a Google session or two post read.
After the After Party
Despite this I found the book dragged slightly and I just couldn’t get away with Phyllis. She was too much of a passive spectator. And what a depressing ending!
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If you liked After The Party try The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook about a British lady married to a Colonel charged with rebuilding Hamburg following World War 2. If you like reading about World War 2 but from different angles try The Night Watch by Sarah Waters about the relationships of female ambulance workers in London during that time.