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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An affectionate filleting of aristocratic mores
The Shooting Party is the story of a day's shooting at the estate of Sir Randolph Nettleby in 1913. On the surface it is a world of politeness and gentility, but below this veneer, individuality, competitiveness and adulterous lust seethe and eventually lead to the tragic conclusion of the novel.

Colegate expertly fillets the weaknesses of the society she...
Published on 20 Jun. 2010 by P. G. Harris

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Didactic
A novel I was long ago recommended by a friend who loved it. But, I'm afraid, I found it tedious. The author seemed to spend so much effort teaching the reader about the world the characters inhabit that I found the whole thing disagreeably educational. And it just rang false to me. Not on my re-read list.
Published on 5 Feb. 2012 by J. E. S. Leake


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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An affectionate filleting of aristocratic mores, 20 Jun. 2010
By 
P. G. Harris - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Shooting Party (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
The Shooting Party is the story of a day's shooting at the estate of Sir Randolph Nettleby in 1913. On the surface it is a world of politeness and gentility, but below this veneer, individuality, competitiveness and adulterous lust seethe and eventually lead to the tragic conclusion of the novel.

Colegate expertly fillets the weaknesses of the society she represents, the loveless marriages for economic or social benefit, the adherence to meaningless ritual, the dishonest valuing of amateurism over professionalism. The book however is very much a social rather than an economic or political criticism. Colegate dissects the society she portrays but does not challenge its structure or the inequality on which it is based. In fact through Sir Randolph she is gently supportive of a paternalistic feudal society.

The book can also be read as a precursor of what was to come, both at the time of its setting and of its writing. The mass and indiscrimnate slaughter of the birds clearly anticipates the impending first world war, but also the conflict between paternalism and individuality is suggestive of the beginnings of Thatcherism at the time of writing.

The book is beautifully, precisely written, including a breathtakingly good opening paragraph and in writing characters with whom she is familiar, colegate provides depth and subtlety. She is less successful in her depiction of the non-aristocratic characters, with the animal rights supporting socialist, Cardew, being a particularly ridiculous, 2 dimensional creation.

I cannot finish this review without a word on the introduction by Julian Fellowes. While Colegate adopts a position sympathetic to, if critical of, the aristocracy and then writes honestly, and without polemic, Fellowes is just ridiculous. He starts his introduction by identifying Look Back in Anger as the cause of the decline of the English aristocracy and continues to rant in the style of a Daily Mail editorial. This is a shame because in the detail of his introduction he makes some very perceptive observations on the text.

So overall this book is definitely recommended, it is a beautifully written depiction of a particular way of life at a particular time which also anticipates the horrors which are to engulf this genteel world. The reader may not agree with the author's position but can respect it. The introduction is worth it for its comic value.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Shooting Party, 10 Nov. 2011
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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Set in 1913, this wonderful novel takes part during 24 hours in a shooting party at Nettleby Park, home of Sir Randolph Nettleby, a Baronet and country gentlemen. Isabel Colegate was, herself, an insider of this world and wrote about it with the observation of a participant. At first, the guests all seem a little confusing - with links, affairs, flirtations, friendships and animosity abounding. However, as though we were guests ourselves, the characters begin to settle down and we learn who is who and their relationships with each other become clearer.

Sir Randolph and his wife Minnie (a former favourite of Edward VII) preside over the shooting, bridge playing and gossip. Their daughter in law Ida is also there with her four children, including the chatty Cicely and serious Osbert. Among others, are Bob and Olivia Lilburn, Lord Gilbert Hartlip and his society wife Aline and Lionel Stephens, who is in love with Olivia. However, the characters are not simply those from 'upstairs' and we have many important characters from 'downstairs' too - amongst them Cicely's maid Ellen, Glass the gamekeeper and his son Dan and Tom Harker, a local poacher, who helps on the shoot.

As the day progresses, everything builds to the climax we are told will happen - a death, although we do not know who or how it happens. However, the tensions of the day suggests that things are getting out of hand. Lionel Stephens is preoccupied with Olivia, but as the only shot capable of beating Gilbert Hartlip, underestimates the competition between both them and their loaders. There is also the well meaning Cornelius Cardew, a vegetarian who plans to protest and, if possible, stop the hunt and Osbert who is searching for his lost, pet duck, before the finale of the duck shoot begins. As Oliva contemplates the meaningless society life she is part of, as Hartlip and Stephens are at daggers drawn, as Aline plots and plans, not only the shooting party will come to an end, but the way of life as it currently is. Although the coming war is only hinted at, the possibility of something which will change the characters way of life forever, hovers throughout this novel. Whether it is Dan Glass wondering whether to pursue an education or follow his father, or Sir Randolph mourning the loss of country life, a sense of unease and foreboding seeps throughout the book. This is a wonderful story, beautifully told and with great skill.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rich and satisfying novel, 8 Nov. 2011
By 
Eleanor (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Shooting Party (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
In Colegate's 1980 novel a shooting party is being held at Sir Randolph Nettleby's Oxfordshire estate in the autumn before the First World War. By the end of Colegate's wonderfully evocative opening paragraphs we know that there will be 'an error of judgement which resulted in a death' and this creates an added tension as we follow the cast of characters over the course of the party.

The Edwardian country house setting is a familiar one and the novel's scenarios are recognizable; Colegate, however, adds depth and complexity to the lives and feeling of her characters, both upper- and lower-class, and her precise writing is to be savoured. The pheasant shooting itself, which takes place in beautifully-depicted hazy October weather, is described in great detail and the reader is awed and horrified by the ritual which Colegate subtly links to the mass slaughter of the approaching war.

I always felt that Colegate was in control of her material and "The Shooting Party" is a satisfying work from its magical opening to its very funny and perfectly judged closing paragraph.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of precision., 20 Oct. 2002
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Shooting Party (Hardcover)
This novel will thrill readers who admire careful, precise writing. Like a jeweler, Colegate has polished her prose till it sparkles, avoiding pretension, excess verbiage, and empty lyricism, choosing, instead, words full of inference and irony, feeling and attitude. Broad themes, historical perspective, and a plot which contains a large cast of individualized characters from all levels of society come alive here in a mere two hundred pages.

Setting the novel in the autumn of 1913, before the outbreak of World War I, Colegate establishes her themes in the first paragraph, asking the reader to imagine an Edwardian drawing room of a country estate, with gas lamps, a log fire, and people from a long time ago, sitting and standing in groups. In the room beyond, a "fierce electric light" shines forth, overpowering the quiet, lamplit room, making it seem shadowy and the people like "beings from a much remoter past." The gentry in this snapshot are not naïve. Even they recognize that "an age, perhaps a civilization, is coming to an end," as industrialization and urbanization are changing the centers of power, and a war looms.

A lively cast of characters is invited to Sir Randolph Nettleby's 1000-acre park for a weekend shoot, and as they converse and interact, they quickly become individualized, the reader learning of their attitudes and prejudices, their understanding of the code of behavior, and the details of their very "civilized" lives. When the shoot begins and the beaters send the birds into the air, the symbolic parallels between the world as it has been, the world as it will be during the coming war, and the world as it may be after the war become obvious to the reader, and the death of one of the characters is not a surprise.

Colegate is never polemical, imbuing her story with a great deal of personal interaction, warmth, and feeling, and as the action unfolds, the reader feels simultaneously wistful about the loss of cultural identity which is about to occur and gratified that the stultifying "predictable-ness" of that life will change. This is a book to savor, written by a remarkable stylist whose prose clearly illustrates that less is more. Mary Whipple
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves its classic status, 27 Sept. 2011
This review is from: The Shooting Party (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Appropriately enough, this Penguin Modern Classics edition comes with an introduction by Julian Fellowes - Colegate's Shooting Party was an inspiration for both Gosford Park and Downton Abbey. There are many things to say about Colegate's book but one is often overlooked - how absolutely precise is her depiction of the Edwardian rural upper class. She is sympathetic but not uncritical, which is absolutely the right critical distance. To the dismay of radicals, kindly paternalism (as embodied by Sir Richard Nettleby, surely a model for the Earl of Grantham in Downton)was a distinct vein in Edwardian society. Like so much else, it was done away with by the First World War. I don't wish to suggest that the Shooting Party is a sociological tract - it is a work of fine literature- but as a portrait of the long lost world of Edwardian England it has few rivals
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5.0 out of 5 stars elegiac, 20 Oct. 2014
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Superb novel with wonderful characterisations and a strong, page-turning narrative. Thoroughly enjoyed it. The film with James Mason is a very faithful interpretation. The author really captures the romance of that tragic, decadent fin-de-siècle society.
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4.0 out of 5 stars For any Downton Abbey fan, if you want to ..., 26 May 2015
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Mr. L. Porter - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Shooting Party (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
For any Downton Abbey fan, if you want to know what most influenced Julian Fellowes it is this book. Also available as a movie in which you will fall head over heels for Judi Bowker. Well, I did.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgia without the sentimentality, 29 Jan. 2014
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Wonderfully evocative andbeautifully written without the usual snobbery, much more authentic than most such books, deals with the poverty and problems of the time as well as the affluence.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Shooting Party, 3 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: The Shooting Party (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This novel represented a challenge to my reading group because of the form of its composition. They loved its descriptive passages and dialogue.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Shooting Party, 12 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: The Shooting Party (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This is a book which evokes certain aspects of aristocratic and rural society in the last year before the outbreak of the First World War. A way of life is certain to change. Charming, intelligent and perceptive - this is a book which is well worth reading.
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The Shooting Party (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Shooting Party (Penguin Modern Classics) by Isabel Colegate (Paperback - 4 Jan. 2007)
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