Four books to beckon in the New Year, brought to you by us at 4th Estate.
‘And where will she go, and what shall she do, When midnight comes around’
Velvet Undergound, All Tomorrow’s Parties
Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is not only one of the definitive English modernist novels, it is also the ultimate party novel. From the eponymous heroine buying the flowers herself, fixing her green silk dress in preparation, even having a tactical disco nap, to the lost loves, old friends and all the dull women in London that must be invited assembling one-by-one for the event, the novel delivers masterfully the ‘terror’, ‘ecstasy’, and ‘extraordinary excitement’, lying within every party and, indeed, every day.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Just how many parties will a man throw – and just how lavish are the lengths he will go to to make these the very best parties – to get the girl of his dreams? The Great Gatsby invites its readers into a shimmering world of flappers, champagne served in glasses bigger than finger bowls, whole libraries of books bought as decoration, and cars so grand they resemble green leather conservatories. Inextricably bound to Gatsby’s splendid parties however is a gripping tragedy: party-goers and readers must face up to the unstoppable passing of time, to the terrible knowledge that every party must end.
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
What could make a better party scene than a posh Tory bash in the eighties in which a young gay guy takes Margaret Thatcher by the hand and dances with her? We are in the home of Tory MP Gerald Fedden in Notting Hill. Nick Guest, the lodger, who is not part of this elite social group, has already taken a morning stroll and engaged in an impromptu sexual encounter, with a stranger in the gents near the station. And now, while everyone else buzzes with nerves at having Mrs Thatcher – never explicitly named – as a guest at the party, the other Guest surprises them all with his boldness and unabashed nerve. A hilarious and memorable moment, this stands out as both one of the best contemporary party scenes, and one of the best cameos.
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Not everyone has the luxury of living to regret their bad behaviour when under the influence. Having decamped to the continent, the lead characters of Vanity Fair attend a large assembly, based on a famous ball thrown by the Duchess of Richmond on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. Here the fickle George Osborne flirts with Becky Sharp, whose obvious social climbing previously made her repulsive to him. George’s attentions to her friend do not go unnoticed by his downtrodden wife Amelia, and she leaves the party utterly humiliated. Marching to the front the next morning, George regrets his adulterous lovemaking and hopes to make amends. But what fate has in store for George will not be remedied by an Alka-Seltzer and a fry-up…
Words by Tara Al Azzawi
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