REVIEW: AFTER THE PARTY, BY LISA JEWELL

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Ralph McLeary and Jemima Catterick (Jem) began as flatmates, somewhat serendipitously, during the mid-nineties. Jem was actually the girlfriend of Smith, one of the others in the flat.

Then on one smashing night at the art gallery where Ralph showed his work, they got together in what they still often remember as a fabulous party, and they felt like soul mates. As if life before was nothing compared to what would come now.

Living in London, and moving from one flat to another, life was good. Ralph did a series of paintings featuring Jem that brought in quite a bit of money.

But then Jem got pregnant. Was that when everything started to change for them?

But the lovely Scarlett was adorable, and life continued to be good. But then there were more pregnancies and miscarriages, and finally Blake came along. But by then, the luster had faded from the sparkling duo of Ralph and Jem.

Alternately told by Ralph and Jem, the story of their relationship, which was a partnership but not a marriage, is revealed with all its flaws and cracks. Back and forth, during the eleventh and twelfth years of their time together, we watch the connections slowly disintegrate. We see the temptations, the choices that drive them further apart, and then, finally, we discover what will become of them.

What was the straw that finally broke them? Was it the inequities of their partnership? Was it other people, like the single dad from the playground that seems to be stalking them? Or was it time, and a failure to communicate?

Like many stories about long term relationships, After the Party reveals much about what makes a love story work, and what must be done to repair the connections. An enjoyable story that felt real, with characters I cared about. Parts of the story seemed a bit redundant, and I was often frustrated by their inability to do what was necessary, but it was definitely a book that I will think about. 4.5 stars.

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