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Lydia's Party [Audiobook, CD] [Audio CD]

Margaret Hawkins , Marguerite Gavin

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc; Unabridged library ed edition (22 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1494532360
  • ISBN-13: 978-1494532369
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 16.5 x 2.5 cm

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.4 out of 5 stars  62 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "What she missed was the feeling she used to have that anything was still possible." 30 Jan 2014
By Bonnie Brody - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Lydia's Party is the first book I've read by Margaret Hawkins. I was intrigued by the reviews I'd read about it but ultimately, was disappointed by the book itself. It just didn't live up to its hype.

Lydia is 54 years old when the book opens. She is a tenured professor at a suburban community college in the Chicago area currently on medical leave for an unrevealed reason. She is planning a party, one that has been an annual event for the past 13 years. This party is only for women, and only for her closest of friends. The book's first parts focus on the day of the party - on Lydia's preparation for the event and the feelings of the women who will be in attendance.

Lydia met all her friends twenty years ago when she first started teaching. Originally Lydia had hoped that her teaching would support her art career as a painter but her art career went to the wayside and teaching became her primary activity. She regrets this. In fact, she has many regrets.

Her friends include Betsy, a clinical social worker who is married to bi-sexual Ted, who sneaks around with men. He was fired from his job as a music teacher for some unknown reason. Maura was a student of Lydia's who spent twenty years having an affair with a married man who spent all his holidays with his wife and family until he died. Elaine is an angry woman, a breast cancer survivor who now is grieving her mother and dog's death and eating her way to oblivion. Jayne is an attorney, once an art historian, who lives on Lake Shore Drive and looks down on those who are not as rich as she is. Celia is fifty and once planned to become a full-time artist. Instead she married and attended library school. There were no library jobs to be found within a 75 mile radius of her home and so she works as a library assistant in a local hospital. "Mostly Celia delivered laptops to meetings or DVD players to birthing classes. Last but not least, there is Norris, a very successful international artist who has stepped on Lydia's back to get to where she is now. "Norris has flashed past while Lydia stood still."

This group of friends makes up the annual party though sometimes Norris does not attend as she gets depressed being with those not as successful as she is. The chapters go through Lydia's preparation on the day of the party and the feelings of those attending on the same day. We learn all of their histories and connections.

I liked that this book had a lot about art in it. It discussed various classic and contemporary artists and the meaning of their art. Some of the ones I encountered in these pages were Albright, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. The discussions were intelligent and entertaining.

The book reminded me of 'The Big Chill' and other movies and books in this genre. It's the story of old friends getting together and talking about their lives and changes over time. It started out with some promise but fizzled out as it continued. The characters became caricatures of themselves, especially Ted, the singing music teacher who has some deep secret longing for Lydia. Lydia herself does not come fully to fruition. I wanted her to rise above what I was given within the confines of this novel. I had hoped for more and was disappointed though this is still a decent book, one that kept me turning its pages. It just could have been so much better.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An expert plot with some entirely unpredictable yet satisfying turns 29 Jan 2014
By Bookreporter - Published on
It's the day of Lydia's big winter party for her closest female friends. The tradition was started 19 years ago, and it's usually a highlight for Lydia --- a warm spot in frigid January, filled with feasting and confessing. This year, however, Lydia is having a challenging time even preparing for the gathering. She has missed giving the party a few times over the years, and now cannot help reflecting that this is her 13th Bleak Midwinter Bash. It feels like an unlucky number.

As Lydia stands before the mirror, trying to decide what she should wear, she meditates on aging. The years have caught up to her, sharply accelerated recently. These physical changes have caught her by surprise since somehow she had once believed she was immune to "this precipitous downward slide."

Lydia is also remembering that, not so long ago, she had been contemplating how she should spend the final third of her life. She had been saving money for the goal of a comfortable old age. Now, however, thanks to the news that she has end-stage pancreatic cancer, she's been spending her money like crazy.

She has yet to tell her friends about her diagnosis but plans to make an announcement at the party. Figuring out how to go about telling them is emotionally draining, on top of her pervasive physical weakness. She also wants to write each friend a letter, telling her what her friendship has meant in her life, but this will entail the summoning of yet more emotional and physical energy.

As the day of the party progresses, we meet each of Lydia's friends. There's Norris, the famous artist. Lydia and Norris have been friends for a very long time, but their shared history is complicated by envy and betrayal. Lydia is not even sure that Norris will attend the party.

Another friend, Elaine, feels beaten down by her life. She recently has lost both her mother and her beloved dog, and has gained lots of weight while grieving. In truth, she doesn't even want to go to Lydia's party, although she will force herself to attend.

Lydia and her group are mystified by their friend Betsy's marriage. Lydia is aware that Betsy's husband, Ted, has had relationships with men, but he and Betsy have negotiated their relationship's arrangement somehow. Lydia knows more than she wants to know about Ted, which impacts her friendship with Betsy.

Celia and Lydia were once very close but have drifted apart. Celia's life feels unsatisfactory. She and her husband struggle financially, and their teenage son is dramatic and needy. Two other friends round out the guest list: there's Jayne, who is now a lawyer, and Maura, who still pines for her deceased (and married) lover.

As Celia and her friends prepare for their party, getting to know them is an immersive experience, which makes their individual and collective tales following the party even more gripping. Plot is one of the great strengths of the book, beyond the expert characterization of these women. The story takes several entirely unpredictable and yet satisfying turns. On the surface, the story matter might seem to have the potential for being a big downer, yet author Margaret Hawkins has managed to transform it into a lovely life-affirming tale, making this meditation on mortality and friendship a pure delight for readers.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Skin Deep 17 Feb 2014
By chanda ekker - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
I love books with several characters' individual stories interwoven into a cohesive whole, especially when they focus on a group of women. I eagerly anticipated enjoying Lydia's Party because it seemed to promise a variety of diverse characters coming together, just they way I like it. Unfortunately it misses the mark on almost every level. The characters are skin deep at best and I wasn't able to discern any real plot line. I'm still not sure what the premise of the novel was supposed to be. A long rambling of regret, I was left feeling depressed by the characters and disappointed in the execution of an overdone storyline.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A BOOK FOR THE MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN? 25 Jan 2014
By Online Book Reviews - Published on
Lydia's Party by Margaret Hawkins is a nostalgic novel about friendship. It is the story of Lydia who is preparing to throw her annual Bleak Midwinter party during which she plans to make a surprise statement to her friends who would be attending it. As the story is told from different points of views, it is at times interesting. Margaret would have done a better job if the details had been minimized. While some may enjoy the book, many are likely to find it boring. Perhaps, middle-aged women may be soaked in by the book.

However, the premise of the book is an interesting one as it deals with friendship, jealousy and female competitiveness. The author’s background work is commendable.The characters are fully developed, and they are honestly brutal about their lives which is a refreshing. If you want a book that explores the bonds of friendship, Lydia's Party might be a good book to begin with.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My generation's The Group by Mary McCarthy 24 Jan 2014
By Jo-Ann Mapson - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm amending this review to exclude the beginning, which I was told was insulting to another reviewer.

Lydia's Party is actually a kind of romance in the truest sense of the word: adventure, which is further defined as "a bold undertaking." Lydia's Party is exactly that. The bold undertaking of friends gathering for what they don't know will be the last time. A touch melancholy, but also quite bracing, Lydia's Party shows us real life, and asks not How do you cope with that, but How WILL you cope with that? Friends change over time, there is always the one friend who succeeded in ways we wish we had, and facing that subject and exploring it is brave and lifechanging. Other friends seem to have lives that are ordinary, and still others seem to never catch a break, but in retrospect that turns out not to be the case. I love this book so much that I was thrilled to be asked to blurb it, as I consider Margaret Hawkins' two earlier slim novels, especially A Year of Cats and Dogs, to be equally as heartfelt and affecting. But Lydia's Party marks a giant step in Hawkins' work. I hated for this book to end. I was left sitting with the pages in my lap, weeping at how stunning this story was. I remembered long ago reading Mary McCarthy's book, The Group, and I thought to myself, well, good on you, Margaret, you have written that book for me and many women ages 40-100. There simply aren't enough kudos for it. I have bought several copies to give to friends. Hurry and write another!
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