I have read a few Sarah Challis novels which is why I had no qualms in picking this book up as I normally am guaranteed a good read. Sadly this was not the case.
The Garden Party, is the story of Alice and David and their four children, wives, partners and grandchildren. Alice wants to hold a party, a large major affair to celebrate her sixtieth birthday, fortieth wedding anniversary and David’s retirement. And she wants her whole family there. This is very out of character for Alice , and they all seem somewhat reluctant, that is because they their own lives to lead.
The story goes through all the children, their lives, their marital setups, marriages and divorces, children, step children and babies not born. The need for a career versus motherhood. Moving away from the fast lane to a slower pace of life. Being true to your beliefs even when others do not agree. It encompasses all these battles, whilst their parents have their own test to face.
And that in a nutshell is the story, just about the lives of this particular family. The threads of their lives many will relate to I am sure, but it was all described rather blandly with no colour in the characters, rather flat and insipid. In the end the garden party seemed to be forgotten in some places as we read more about the lives of the children. No real drama or happiness in the book that made me want to keep reading but I did in the small hope that something was going to happen and I was going to be moved by the book. It did not and I was not.
A disappointing read and if you have never read any Challis before then perhaps start with some earlier novels, such as Footprints in the Sand. If you want a book with a party with more drama then try Sue Welfare’s The Surprise Party. A family orientated party written much better.
I think I should have actually given up on this book, because I actually found it quite draining and this was not the sort of book I probably should have been reading at that time.
If you get the chance I do recommend her other books I have read, Footprints in the Sand (linked in the review above): Cousins who have to complete a journey across Africa, Mali and the Sahara at the behest of their Great Aunt.
That Summer Affair : a different sort of village tale that makes you think about how you would react.
Love and Other Secrets : a novel about mothers and daughters.
Challis covers a wide range of subjects and sometimes the novels work and in the case of The Garden Party for me it did not work. Not sure though if I would now pick up any more by her or not.