Eclectic look at the depiction of parties, soirees, banquets and balls across the whole history of literature, examining every dress code, menu, guest list and conversation. Possibly the first book to compare Joyce's Finnegan's Wake with Jackie Collins's Hollywood Wives (!)
I was particularly intrigued by the theory in the introduction that real life social events are rarely written about with any detail, eg in historical accounts and diaries. It does seem that we turn to fiction for the proper representation of such gatherings across history. Possibly because a single person's experience of a real party is always going to be unsatisfactory to read; parties are group experiences, after all. Suzette Field has tried to keep her menu as varied as possible, so some omissions which might seem glaring (eg a party from the works of Anthony Powell) have been made in favour of others from roughly the same era and genre (Waugh). Certainly, there could be a whole book devoted to parties in science fiction novels alone (Moorcock springs to mind), but as the single sci-fi entry, choosing the 'flying party' from Life The Universe and Everything isn't at all a bad thing. Similarly, the single entries for horror (Stephen King's Carrie) and fantasy (Tolkein's Lord of the Rings) make perfect sense: not only are these classics of the genre, but the respective party scenes are well-known even to those who've not read the source novels: Carrie and the bucket of pig's blood, Bilbo's vanishing during his birthday speech.
There's also a good sense of the history of literature, as told through parties. The Great Gatsby is here, as expected, but perhaps not all Gatsby fans might be aware of the classical text that inspired it: Trimalchio's party, from Petronius's Satyricon, in the 1st century AD.
Ms Field's book is a refreshing celebration of fiction, and breathes new and accessible life into some dusty old classics. It also works as an intriguing taster of some books one might not have read, but always meant to. A perfect present for any book lover or indeed, for the organiser of any book group.