Saturday, February 8, 2014

Lydia's Party by Margaret Hawkins
Released: January 2014

Lydia's Party is Margaret Hawkins's third novel, about a middle-aged woman who hosts a belated holiday party every year at the end of January and invites the same group of friends (no men allowed!). Lydia has been hosting her Bleak Midwinter Bash for 20 years, but this year, Lydia plans on breaking some serious news to her friends that may break their hearts.

The first four-fifths of the novel takes place over the course of the weekend during which Lydia throws the party - with most of it being dedicated to Lydia's party-preparation much in the manner of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. Although most of the novel is told from Lydia's point of view, there are a few chapters here and there told from the perspectives of Lydia's party guests.

As each of the seven women prepare for Lydia's Party, we learn about their reflections, regrets, friendships, and relationships, and how they've affected each of their respective lives up to this point.

This novel was very difficult for me to get through. It's extremely slow-moving, and a number of different characters are introduced to the story all at the same time. After reading two chapters, I put it down, and picked it up the following day to realize I had difficulty remembering who was who. It's not the best sign when you have to flip back to the beginning of the book and take notes about who the characters are.

I understand that Lydia's Party is one of the finest examples of a character-driven novel, but reading about how each character tediously prepares for the party is a bit too much. There is too much going on, and not enough going on all at the same time in this novel, and I felt no sympathy or empathy for any of the characters.

The ending of Lydia's Party was the clincher that validated my overall opinion of the novel. I won't reveal any spoilers, but I will say that the ending is a bit unrealistic, and didn't even match up with the rest of the book's tone.

All in all, you can probably afford to skip out on this one.

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