The Party by Elizabeth Day

Privilege, obsessions, and the dark side of the high life: The Party by Elizabeth Day


The Party is a dark and clever novel about privilege, obsession, and the immovable establishment in British society. Martin Gilmour went to school and university with the rich Ben Fitzmaurice and became an accepted part of his best friend’s family, but a secret in their past and their precarious relationship in the present threatens to blow apart this friendship forever and reveal that Martin was never really a part of the world he thought he had ascended to. Day’s novel exposes hypocrisy and lies in the upper classes, but also the frailty and delusion of human relationships, as Martin and his wife Lucy recount events in the past and present.

The narrative style of The Party is gripping, jumping between time in a flashback style whilst Day carefully controls how much information is given. The plot centres around a party that Ben holds for his 40th birthday and how this causes Martin to look back at the past and consider their secrets. It is a classic structure that allows a slow reveal of the past, tense as it becomes clear that this is not a simple case of boyhood friendship continued into adulthood. Martin is painted as an outsider, someone who learnt how to fit in through his relationship with Ben, leaving him reliant on his best friend, but it is clear to outsiders that this is not as simple as Martin might claim. He is an unreliable narrator and through this Day shows his obsession and how this could teeter on the edge of revenge. The other characters are less notably presented, often because Martin does not describe them objectively, but this gives the reader a sense that a lot is being covered up or rewritten.

The Party is a timely novel, poking fun at public school and Oxbridge educated, everything handed to them on a plate politicians as well as the institutions which allows those rich enough to get away with anyway. It is also a very enjoyable read for anybody who enjoys novels about the dark side of privilege and characters who get themselves into that world, but at a price.

Quick book picks for July

Need a holiday read? Something to settle down with outside when the sun actually shines? Or an excuse to stay in and protect yourself from the rays? Here are some of my favourite books being published in July (click on the titles for full reviews). Expect tense friendships, exposure of class differences, and eccentric tales of unusual characters.

  • How To Stop Time by Matt Haig – Highly anticipated new book by Matt Haig about the perils of immortality when you’re an anxious overthinker.
  • Watling Street by John Higgs – History, anecdotes, politics, and society are all covered in this book about the famous Roman road running across England and Wales. Endearing popular history.
  • Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory – Like a Wes Anderson film in book form, this is the story of a family of psychics and con artists who want to restore their good name. An enchanting summer read.
  • The Party by Elizabeth Day – A gripping novel about the dark sides of privilege, exposing career politicians and the licences of the rich whilst telling a story of a lifelong yet unequal friendship and its secrets.
  • The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley – A historical novel about a journey into Peru in the nineteenth-century with an unlikely friendship at its core and a look at understanding others’ beliefs.
  • The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen – When old and privileged childhood friends end up together on a Greek island, their lives and relationships start to unravel. A tense and ominous literary thriller.
  • Hings by Chris McQueer – Provocative, hilarious, and darkly surreal short stories focused on working class Scotland, everyday life, and the mundane mixed with the downright weird. Far too enjoyable.