Party On

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Party On

Literary Fiction that foregrounds parties

When bringing individuals together and providing them with a shared environment where they are expected to interact, parties have great potential for interpersonal connectionand conflict. Add the specifics of any given gatheringincluding who’s there and why -- and that potential further takes shape.
The following novels embrace the possibility for interpersonal drama inherent in parties by foregrounding gatherings of various types and sizes and, as they do so, they also explore how parties can heighten, transform and otherwise affect the emotions and behavior of their attendees.

The Party by Elizabeth Day
A close friend of the wealthy Ben Fitzmaurice since their school days, Martin Gilmour and his wife Lucy attend Ben and his wife Serena’s luxe celebration at their new country home. Three weeks later, Martin is being questioned by police about the events of that evening. As the investigation proceeds, details of the party become clear and so, too, does the origin of the connection between unlikely pair Ben and Martin.

River Under the Road by Scott Spencer
The relationships of two married couples play out against the backdrop of over a dozen parties. Thaddeus and Grace meet as young artists and, in the wake of Thaddeus’ success, purchase an estate on the Hudson River, where they meet the caretaker’s son Jennings and his wife Muriel. As all four struggle with what they want versus what they have, their understandings of themselvesand one anotherstart to shift. 

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Unexpectedly invited to the bachelorette party for her former best friend, crime writer Leonora Shaw reluctantly attends, traveling to an isolated home in the woods for the weekend celebration. Leonora’s uneasiness only increases at the gathering, and when she wakes up injured in the hospital, she can’t remember what happenedor if she was responsible. 

Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley
Echoing Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, Smiley’s novel depicts a Hollywood house party that collects a group of individuals for storytelling and discussion over a series of days. Here, the setting is film director Max’s home, where those including his girlfriend Elena, his ex-wife Zoe and his agent Stoney gather the morning after the 2003 Academy Awards as the invasion of Iraq is underway. 

An Unexpected Guest by Anne Korkeakivi
Like Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Korkeakivi’s novel follows one woman as she prepares to throw a party and navigates the emotions and memories prompted by doing so. The wife of a British diplomat in Paris, American Clare Moorhouse works to organize a dinner that could make the difference for her husband’s career, yet two chance encountersone recalling a secret from her pastendanger her efforts.