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October 9, 2016

Lydia's Party


Lydia's Party by Margaret Hawkins
Fiction
2014 Viking
Finished on May 5, 2016
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Lydia is having a party. She's hosting her midwinter bash, a Christmas party she threw a month late one year, which has now become an annual tradition. Her guests--six friends who bonded twenty years ago over their budding careers, their love of art and food, their romances, their dogs--think they know all there is to know about one another, but tonight Lydia prepares to shock them with a shattering announcement.

As we follow these friends through their party preparations, we meet seven remarkable women, each of whom is navigating the grocery-shopping hassles of daily chores while also meditating in stolen moments on messy relationships and dreams deferred--or, in the case of Norris, astounding success.

Later, over a feast, and with Lydia's huge dog, Maxine, warming their feet, the friends swap stories, laugh uproariously, air a few grievances. All are pondering their lives, wondering "what's next?" now that the anticipation of new love or a new job no longer seems life altering. Yet as this particular evening unfolds, these friends discover a bond that does indeed alter all their lives.

Exquisitely written, profoundly moving, and filled with aha moments, Lydia's Party is sure to appeal to fans of Anne Tyler, Anna Quindlen, and Helen Simonson. Here is a novel about friendship, and how the everyday foibles, deepest fears, and fiercest desires of seven women can illuminate the meaning of happiness, love, and live itself.

It's been quite some time since I've read a women's friendship novel. I used to love this type of book, but after a while they all tend to follow a similar pattern: one divorcee, one single involved with an unattainable man, one with a cancer diagnosis, yada-yada-yada.  The cover art for Lydia's Party caught my eye when the book was first published, but I held off, not really needing to buy another book, only to have it sit on one of my shelves for years. I came across the book while perusing the shelves at my library and decided to finally give into my curiosity about this novel.

Lydia's Party begins on the morning of Lydia's annual winter party, bringing to mind Virginia Woolf's classic Mrs. Dalloway. I enjoyed the domestic details as Lydia prepares for her guests, but the alternating points-of-view led to some confusion about which character was which and the overall tone of the story went from something light to a more negative read. I began to look forward to finishing in order to move on to my next book.

Final Thoughts:

I loved Five Fortunes (Beth Gutcheon) and Talk Before Sleep (Elizabeth Berg), but Lydia's Party was a disappointment. I love the cover art, but I can't even come up with a single favorite passage to share. I'm glad I didn't spend my money on the book and I'm sorry that I can't even recommend borrowing a copy from the library. Perhaps it's time to reread Mrs. Dalloway!

10 comments:

  1. Sorry this was a stinker.

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    1. Me too, Kathy. I had high hopes, but unfortunately I was disappointed.

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  2. I hate it when a book is a disappointment.

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    1. Deb, I just wish I had a better formula for knowing when to quit. I'm giving up on Tana French's latest after only 34 pages (it's just not calling to me), but I worry that I may not be giving it enough time.

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  3. I picked this up from the library early in the year when it was winter (the cover appealed to me) but I didn't finish it before returning. It was just okay for me, and I thought it could've been much better if the plot developed in a different way.

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    1. Rita, I certainly agree. I wonder if I would have tried it, had it had a different cover. :)

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  4. Yes, some of these women fiction books do follow a pattern don't they? I don't mind if it's well done because they can feel like comfort reads but what a bummer this one didn't work out.

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    1. Iliana, I agree about the comfort reads, but this one fell short. Oh, well.

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  5. I was quite drawn by the cover, too, but somehow I haven't read it. I must have suspected its contents were less than hoped for, as I trust your opinion implicitly. It's funny how our tastes change as we "grow"; I used to like women friendship books, even romance and women "finding themselves" after divorce. Now it seems I veer toward classics, or translated literature, because as you said the other books tend to follow a typical pattern.

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    1. Meredith, I'm fairly certain you would find this book somewhat trite, if not dull. I certainly did! Yes, my reading taste has changed drastically in the past 30+ years. (Shhh, don't tell anyone, but I used to love Danielle Steel's books!) Now I prefer books with substance and a message, although a good mindless thriller is always welcome.

      Hope all is well and that you're enjoying your fall weather (and the Cubs' win!).

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