on 14 April 2010
Another great book from Lisa Jewell, a very moving, well written and emotive story as some of the beloved characters from the classic bestseller Ralph's Party struggle 12 years on with the realities of family life. Ralph and Jem now have two children, a house, cat and careers but not everything is happy with these two great characters.
I "stormed" through it today to find out what happens to Jem and Ralph at the end of the story. On the way we meet some of the other characters and some new ones too, along with a lot of obstacles and challenges for them. I would really recommend to anyone who loved Ralph's Party firstly and those who like a great story with great characters, a lot of pace and a lot of style!
on 17 April 2010
I remember the joy I felt, years back, on discovering Lisa Jewell's first novel, 'Ralph's Party'. At the time, there was a deluge of identik chick lit novels being published in the vein of Bridget Jones and Ralph's P was a breath of fresh air - honest, romantic and intelligent, with a mix of male and female viewpoints, keen observations and some smart psychological insights. Jewell broke the boundaries of the women's fic genre and raised the bar. She remains to this day my favourite women's fic author (I want to avoid using the word chick lit at all costs as it doesn't do justice to the quality of her writing)
The idea of a sequel fascinated me. After all, so many romantic comedies finish with a couple getting together, the rosy idealism of Happy Ever After. I was fascinated to see how Ralph & Jem would be, ten years on. I must admit, then, that I was shocked to discover Ralph and Jem in such a state of misery. Jewell's writing has got darker recently, which I think is a good evolution, but I admit that I got 2/3 of the way into this book and felt a tear welling up in my eye and thought - this is the saddest book I've read in quite a while. Perhaps this was exacerbated by the fact that R's P was such an uplifting book, that perfectly captured the dizzy joy not only of a twentysomething couple, but of being in your twenties, sparkling with promise and hopes and dreams; whilst the sequel really focuses on hopes and dreams being dashed as reality and disappointment sets in. And even while it ends on a positive note, as you sense from the start that it will, it did make me feel glum about marriage, and rather glad that I haven't settled down with kids yet!
Another quality of Jewell's maturing style is her deep psychological insight into character. She captures the minutiae of daily life with such precision and there are many wonderful moments that felt so perfectly spot=on - when Joel reveals another side to his character, or the comic details of Lucas's facebook page. I also loved Jewell's rather daring exploration of Ralph finding a spiritual dimension to his life. Normally in this type of book, anything remotely spiritual is described with irony or ridicule. It was honest, daring and rather refreshing to read about a character finding something beyond themselves, and I liked her exploration of characters puzzling over fate, coincidence and destiny, their very human desire to find meaning and shape to the chaos of life.
My only disappointment was that I had been expecting a blend of storylines - more of Karl and Cheri and Siobhan, because one of the things I loved about R's P was the rich cast of characters and zigzag of stories.
Nevertheless, this is another brilliant, pageturning read that has left me hungry for Jewell's next offering.
Well it has been 11 long years since Lisa Jewell released a book entitled Ralph's Party. She wrote and I read Ralphs party (unbelievably) 11 years ago and even back then her writing was great.
In Ralph's Party we meet the residents of 31 Almanac Road, who consist of flatmates Ralph and Smith and their new neighbour who moves in, Jemimah. Upstairs live Karl and Siobhan and they have been unmarried for fifteen years albeit happily. When Cheri moves in to the flat above them she causes havoc by deciding that Karl is the man she wants and sees no reason that a girlfriend should get in the way. The book itself leads us into their lives and sees the end result with both Ralph and Jem getting together and leaving the book with that happy ever after feeling.
However, Lisa Jewell decided that 11 years later she would transport us back to Ralph and Jem's current relationship with her book entitled After The Party. So a few years down the line we find that Ralph and Jem are unmarried, but living together with their two young children. Things are not all sweetness and light and Jem is feeling unsettled with just about everything. She is currently trying to raise her demanding and Diva like daughter Scarlett, still nurture her baby boy Blake, and keep her career going with a difficult client as well as keeping her marriage to Ralph on an even keel.
Both Ralph and Jem find that life doesn't seem that simple anymore. Jem begins to feel quietly disgruntled with everything that Ralph does and Ralph is feeling more and more like he's not even part of his own family. Slowly they realise that their ideal family life that they viewed all those years ago through rose tinted glasses is nothing like their present reality. Whilst Jem and Ralph both go on their own paths of discovery they both wonder at whether their relationship can survive. Will they make it through or will they be like the thousands of others that have tried and failed to make a marriage work.
Firstly, I cannot believe that an author has finally made the fantastic move to revisit a previous `happy ending' story. I really enjoyed Ralph's Party but found that not only did I enjoy this current book, but I fell in love with the characters all over again. Lisa Jewell has exceeded every expectation I could have imagined and produced an absolutely first class book. She didn't take the easy option of the characters being 100% happy with a perfect life. This book is far from what most would expect an easy `chick lit' author to produce. Lisa Jewell tackles all of the gritty real life issues that couple who are married and with a family may encounter.
She managed to keep the spirit of these characters but yet developed them as older and wiser from what they were in Ralph's Party. There are some sensitive issues that I think are dealt with incredibly well although I'm reluctant to be specific as I don't want any spoilers in my review. The story is started with the current situation that Jem finds herself in and slowly introduces the past year and the story unfolds as the reader gets further into the book. What I also loved was the fact that the author didn't rush the ending and the reader is still wondering what will be the outcome right until the last few chapters. I cannot praise this book enough and would highly recommend it to anybody. It's isn't necessary to read the first book Ralph's Party but for those that have I think this is a wonderful way to look at the progression of Ralph and Jem's life. An absolutely fabulous read that can't be awarded anything other than 5 out of 5. Get out there and get yourself a copy!
on 28 April 2010
As always, reading a Lisa Jewell novel is a fantastic way to lose yourself in the characters lives and live their lives with them. I first discovered Lisa Jewell, reading Thirty Nothing (by far her greatest novel!!), and since went on to collect all of her books.
After The Party, is a brilliant way of, what seems like, catching up with old friends. Jem and Ralph have progressed somewhat in their lives, now living together with 2 children. A bit different, needless to say, from the first book - Ralph's Party. I thoroughly enjoyed reading A.t.P. I was surprised with parts of it - the thoughts Jem was having and Ralph leaving Jem to cope with the every day life of a single mum, not realising the effect it would have on her feelings for him - the way Lisa Jewell portrayed both the characters in this situation was magnificent; showing us (the reader) how much they had grown, since we first met them, 11 years ago.
Again, I was slightly disappointed not to encounter Siobhan, Cheri and Karl and catch up with their stories, I was more than pleasantly surprised with the ending of the book.
A fantastic book, which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who has (or indeed, hasn't) read her previous work.
on 30 April 2010
I love Lisa, I really do. I have read all her books and always pre-ordered on amazon since I got a copy of Ralph's Party for free with Elle magazine many years ago...
I was a little sad reading this book. It does not share the same mood as Ralph's Party. I guess I was hoping for something a little more uplifting. It seems like a black cloud has appeared...
That being said, I do think Lisa's writing has evolved and developed over the years and this is just a reflection of her growth.
on 22 June 2010
I am a huge Lisa Jewell fan and have read all of her books so you can imagine how happy I was to discover that she was writing a sequel to her best-seller, Ralph's Party.
After the Party joins Ralph and Jem eleven years after they got together. Everyone who knows them looks on their relationship as perfect and everlasting. However, Ralph and Jem now have two young children, a house in suburbia and fond memories of the care-free existence they once had. Ralph still loves Jem but he knows he is no longer her priority and Jem is beginning to wonder who she is outside of her 'mother' role. So they are both struggling to get back to each other and secure the future they believed they would always have.
Out of all of Lisa Jewell's books, I think this one is the darkest. I found this really refreshing; she strips back Jem and Ralph's relationship and shows the problems they are experiencing. The story is written from both of their perspectives as they try to make sense of what is going wrong.
There were certain points in the book where I disliked both Jem and Ralph but again I think that this emphasises how real relationships work. Couples do annoy each other and row; you have to make the decision as to whether the love you feel for the other person is worth putting up with their negative traits.
As usual, I was totally absorbed in Lisa Jewell's writing style and the story she was telling. It is quite a long book but I was swept along with it and had finished in two days. If you have already read Ralph's Party then great but it is not a necessity. Lisa Jewell provides enough information for the reader to understand Ralph and Jem's past without being bored by it. I could not recommend this book enough, it is a realistic take on modern relationships without the sugar coating that some authors seem to go for.
I tend to avoid female fiction/chick lit overload these days and have tried to wean myself off of it, but try as I might, I keep going back to what I know. In my opinion Lisa Jewell is one of the best writers around, her characterisation is excellent and her books eminently readable.
This novel follows on from the 1990s book 'Ralph's Party' which told the story of three flatmates: Smith, Ralph and Jem - it's your usual love triangle thing and it leads to a happy ending. Anyway, this book takes off years later, Jem and Ralph have been cohabiting for many years and have two children: three-year-old Scarlett and new baby Blake and live in an unfashionable postcode (the author's opinion, not mine!) of south London. Ralph has had success as a commercial artist and Jem works freelance as a theatrical agent. The plots centre around Ralph's fear of commitment and family life; Jem's fraustrated ambitions and the sheer hard work of bringing up a small family whilst fantasising about a fellow parent she meets in the park. Although this book is written primarily for a female audience I've little doubt that men would find some of it interesting read.
on 16 May 2010
I love lisa Jewell's books and it was great to catch up with Ralph & Jem again. Very touching and sometimes true to life the struggles of parenthood and life choices. 5 star reading once again
on 16 May 2010
"After the party" is one of those books that just speaks to you. It is a great story, superbly written and there is some deeper lessons served without preaching moral. And what more, the outcome of the story is never a given. It's a couple of days since I turned the last page and I still keep thinking about it. I really fail to see how some may find the story depressing. I would rather say it is interesting and believable and I enjoyed it immensely. Just wish I could read it anew without knowing the story, of course.
As I did not enjoy "the truth about melody browne", I am so glad I gave Jewell a second go, would not have missed this one. I find that Jewell really has moved in the right direction in her authorship and I can't wait to see what will be next.
on 29 July 2013
Review: wow this novel really took it out of me. The tension, the emotion and the feelings of the characters are at the forefront during the entirety of this novel and it is so well written that you feel each and every sigh, laugh and tear with each of the characters. I am a massive fan of Ralph's party so I don't know why it has taken me so long to read the follow up novels, but I am so pleased that I did!
The characters are wonderfully similar to how they were in the first novel, they both still have a really strong voice thought the story and so from that point of view it is like returning home to old friends, however that would be boring if they were ENTIRELY the same. These characters have grown and evolved, they have had children and they are losing Ralph and Jem and simply becoming mum and dad and this is part of the problem throughout the whole of this novel-they need to find themselves again!
The things that this couple have gone through are realistic and believable and yet I simply don't know how they coped. In terms of the plot, it is beautifully mapped. They go through miscarriages, astilbe adultery, Ralph having issues with work, Jem having issues with work, questions over whether they should get married or not. It is one drama after another-it's fabulous. We hear a lot more of jems sister Miranda in this novel than in the previous one, and of course smith is back too. The big admission that I have to make, however, is that I really didn't like Ralph is this book! I LOVED him in the first novel, but in this one, really disliked him, thought he had turned into a lazy man who was letting his family life ass him by. I also really disliked Scarlet, their daughter. I thought she seemed spoilt and just took away from the enjoyment of the story a bit for me.
The fact that I had the dislike of these characters though and found the storyline so stressful was because it was so well written. Lisa Jewell really does have a way of writing drama to make it seem so real that it literally jumps off the page and pulls you in. This is not a novel to read if you are looking for a restful Sunday afternoon affair. You need to invest in this novel, but it is well worth the investment! This is Jewell at her best and if you are a fan of hers, you have got to read this one. If you haven't already read Ralph's Party then read that first because I think you have to know the characters from that novel before picking up this epic read!