After the party is the follow up to Lisa Jewell’s popular novel Ralph's Party. It catches up with the lead characters Jem Catterick and Ralph McLeary 11 years after the night they fell in love. The book starts off in the present where we find Jem and Ralph separated and living in different homes. The story then takes us back to a year earlier where accounts of the events of the last year of the relationship are told. The book tells the story from the view point of both of the characters and moves between them in each chapter. This style of writing makes for compelling reading, I found myself deeply drawn into the thoughts, feelings and emotions of both Jem and Ralph as they faced the challenges and issues of their relationship.
Lisa tells both Jem and Ralph’s views in such an unbiased way that in the end surprisingly I found myself unable to form any allegiance and side fully with either of the characters. The book gave such a sense of each of the characters individual journeys that I found myself routing for both of them in some way as though I was invested somehow in their relationship. Having not read Ralphs Party the original novel I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to relate fully to the characters and the background of the relationship of Jem and Ralph. I did not need to be concerned for long as the strong character descriptions and attention to detail make you feel as though you have known Jem and Ralph from the start and have been involved in their relationship and witnessed their key milestones along the way.
This story is often a deep and heart breaking story but the characters and personality traits of Jem and Ralph’s children provide some welcome humour to the relationship and overall readability of the book. The reminiscent and nostalgic theme of the book as the characters recount their relationship also provides some light relief while helping with completing the picture of the intensity of the love between Jem and Ralph and the reality of their situation.
Once I started reading this book I found it difficult to put down, highly readable and a completely addictive account of a long term relationship in modern times. The story reminds us that the big fall in love moment is only ever the start of a relationship, and that everyday life, kids, careers and routine can get in the way of the fairy tale ending if you lose sight of what is really important. I am thoroughly looking forward to reading Lisa Jewell’s next offering.
Book Reviewed by Alison Morris
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