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After the Party by Cressida Connolly - Review

Monday, December 13, 2021


A few weeks ago my friend Laura gave me a bunch of books that she didn't want anymore. There were some great sounding books in there! I was really grateful. Laura and I have similar taste in books so I generally trust her. I had the books in a bag but thanks to a broken radiator we had to clear loads of stuff out of the bedroom so while we were doing that we took the opportunity to put the books on my spreadsheet. We did this a few years ago, and Lee then made an app for me - libraryofbee.co.uk - so I can easily check what books I have when I'm out and about and then I don't buy duplicates. So anyway as we were putting this on the spreadsheet I decided to leave it out to read next, and I'm really glad I did as I really enjoyed it. 

The book is set in 1938, right on the cusp of World War Two. Phyllis and her husband Hugh, and their children Julia, Frances, and Edwin, have been living in South America as Hugh works for British Rubber, and have then been in Belgium for a little while, but have no returned to England. To begin with, they stay with one of Phyllis's sisters, Patricia. Patricia is married to Gleville and they have a daughter called Antonia. 

Patricia and Phyllis have another sister, Nina, who married a mechanic, who was rather below her station. (Phyllis and her family are frightfully posh and all their houses are massive). Eric and Nina are big players in British Union, sometimes known as the British Union of Fascists, which was led by Oswald Mosley. They encourage Phyllis to get involved too, as she's newly returned to England. Over the summer, Nina runs camps for party members. Phyllis feels she'll be at a bit of a loss with the children, who are fourteen, twelve, and eight, or something like that, so she takes them along. Julia ends up getting into some bother. Phyllis makes some friends - Sarita, who is married to her second husband, Fergus, and Venetia, who is hilarious but quite coarse. 

War looms on the horizon but Phyllis and her family believe themselves to be huge patriots. They are obsessed with Mosley, who they call the Leader. Phyllis is quite overwhelmed when she meets him. But mostly her life is a round of parties, sorting out the household, and visiting her ailing parents. It's obvious that something is going to happen, but the reader isn't quite sure what. 

Interspersed with the main narrative are little bits from Phyllis herself, which read as if she's being interviewed by a journalist or something. She has been in prison, which turned her hair white, but the reader doesn't know why. She talks about not forgiving her sisters, but again, we don't know why.

I found the book compelling and really interesting. I do love posh people who are sometimes terrible but sometimes not. I liked the backdrop of the Fascist party and associated politics (even though I am very very far from a fascist). I sympathised with Phyllis, to a point, but I also found her frustrating at times. 

The book reminded me of The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes which is ironic because Diana Mitford, one of the sisters, became Oswald Mosley's second wife (she also appears in the book). I'd love to read something else by the same author!

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