That’s how I’d describe After The Party in 3 words. A historical novel at the times of WW2. The main character isPhyllis and it’s told from her perspective in different time periods. The book opens in 1979 as Phyllis gets out of prison. The opening page totally got me sucked in, and is representative of the beautiful writing:
“When I came out of prison my hair was white. I think it was a shock for them all, but for the children especially…they all thought it was the awfulness of prison that had made me old, like those old wives’ tales where someone sees a ghost and goes white overnight from the shock, but the truth was simply that one couldn’t get one’s hair dyed. Hair dye was not provided, and why should it have been? It was meant to be a punishment, not a hairdressing salon.”
Then, we go back to 1938, when she moves back to England from abroad, with her husband and 3 kids. She moves close to her two sisters Patricia and Nina. After you learn Phyllis’ very decent life from before, it’s a curious matter to learn how on earth she ended up in prison? Throughout the book, we go back and forth between times, where we continue the story leading up to the events causing her to go to prison, and her reflecting back to the memories of the past.
I loved the book for many reasons. First, I think Connolly is a very talented writer. The book was very atmospheric. She has very intriguing and creative descriptions. She managed to pull off a very rich book in only 260 pages. The book is not only a historical novel, it’s also a family saga with its flawed and unpredictable characters. And all these aspects co-existed very organically. I specifically adored the parts with Phyllis’ flashbacks to the past. The expression of human emotions, wisdom & disappointments were very impressive, very real. The relationship among the three sisters, including the events & people surrounding them was a very good representation of class in society. I enjoyed the changing dynamics and surprises along the way.
Another fascinating part of this book was the main character Phyllis. Connolly somehow managed to create a seemingly naive and sympathetic character, who was a member of the British Union of Fascists. They were affected by ‘The Leader’, Oswald Mosley’s charisma, and were keen to remain in peace after the painful experiences of First World War. So, the writer adds layers and complexity to leave it to your own devices to decide what to make of this character. Is she naive or not, is the likeable or not? To me, this was very impactful writing. It was also interesting to read about that aspect of politics during the war time Britain.
My slight disappointment of the book was the build-up of the title and the blurb to the ‘Party’ in the book. In my opinion, the stress given to what happened in the party was not totally linked to the aftermath. I did enjoy reading about the party, and it was interesting, but I wish the connection was stronger to the following events if it’s seen as a big impact for the rest of the story.
Regardless, I’m not too hung up on this flaw. I really enjoyed all the other aspects and richness of the book. Cressida Connolly was a delight to read. It’s a solid 4 star from me and I’d definitely recommend it and read other books from her.
Thanks so much to Penguin publishers for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Please let me know if you read it, what you thought of it? I’d love to hear from you 🙂
Thanks so much for stopping by and happy reading!