Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess: A review

This is another book that falls in the "beach fiction" category. I seem to have read several of those this summer. That wasn't really planned; it just sort of happened that way. 

For this one, the year is 1987. We head out to the Truro section of Cape Cod where most of the action takes place, but we start in New York where 25-year-old Eve Rosen is a bright young editorial assistant at a publishing house. It is a dead-end job and she is bored, so when she has an opportunity to leave it and take a position as a research assistant for the summer for Henry Grey, a well-regarded New Yorker writer, she jumps at the chance. Grey and his poet wife, Tillie, spend their summers in a Truro bungalow that is a magnet for writers and intellectual types. Their handsome son, Franny, also spends time there. And the bungalow is where Eve's new job will take place. 

We learn that Eve is a wannabe writer herself, but she hasn't actually finished a story in years and she hasn't had anything published since college. She has a younger brother who is a math prodigy and he is considered the genius in the family, a genius who suffers from some psychological issues. He absorbs their parents' interest and concern and Eve's talents are not valued by them. They seem to be waiting for her to find some man to marry who will take care of her. But for now, they will permit her to live with them at their home on Truro while she pursues her summer job with Henry Grey.

Eve becomes infatuated first with Franny and then with Henry, which makes for some awkwardness. Henry proves to be very seductive with thoroughly predictable results, while his wife is off pursuing her own pleasures. Meanwhile, the couple continues planning their big end of summer book party where the guests come dressed as a favorite literary character and everyone gets to try to guess who they are. The choice of a character to impersonate can tell much about how the person sees him/herself. Or not, in some cases. All of the action of the summer seems pointed toward that party. 

Dukess' book is full of literary references and she evidences a real love of many of the classics of literature. She also shows a love a language, although I did find one example that set my teeth on edge. She referred to someone "honing in" on a subject. One sees that more and more and my online dictionary even says it is an acceptable alternative to "homing in". Well, it isn't acceptable to me! It's just wrong and annoying.

I was interested in the plot of this novel and its depiction of the book scene, but in the end, it seemed to me that there was not much there there. At least, there wasn't much that contained a fresh perspective. And after I finished and thought back on the story, I realized that none of the characters had really engaged my interest. They just didn't make much of an impression on me. On the whole, the book was a light beach read, something that can hold the attention for the afternoon but is not destined to be remembered and savored.  

My rating: 3 of 5 stars 

6 comments:

  1. In my book "honing in" is incorrect, plain and simple!

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  2. Well, you are the second blogger to have found this one less than satisfying. Since I just wasted three days reading The Silent Patient for a reading group, I am relieved to know I don't have to read The Last Book Party.

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    1. It was okay as a light read, but just okay. I have veered away from reading The Silent Patient. I'll be interested to read your thoughts on it.

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    2. I am not even going to review it. I found it just terrible but after discussing it at reading group last night I learned I am in the minority. People like what they like I guess. It was a clumsy mess of a supposedly psychological thriller. I am extremely picky about those. That is all I have to say.

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    3. That's sort of been my impression based on what I've read about it. Not going to read it!

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