Author: Cassie Hamer
Publication Date: 18 February 2019
Publisher: HQ Fiction
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
“After the Party” is a light piece of contemporary fiction that’s good fun to read, although not overly emotionally involving. Still, it’s well written, and isn’t trying to pretend that it will spark any deep soul searching.
Lisa Wheeldon is normally a very organised person, but for some inexplicable reason, she’s completely failed with her daughter Ava’s fifth birthday party. She’s left everything to the last minute (why is never really explained) and now her morning is in total chaos. This explains why she doesn’t notice an extra, un-invited child among the 32 invited guests. But she most certainly does notice when the child’s mother doesn’t come to pick her up, and it becomes increasingly clear that she doesn’t intend to.
Lisa and her sister Jamie begin a search for the errant mother. They choose not to involve the police, but as the weeks pass, they begin to worry that perhaps they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Both sisters are being forced to face some uncomfortable truths about themselves and the lives they’ve chosen.
I felt the tone wobbled a little in the early chapters – as though it wasn’t quite sure yet whether it was a relatively light drama, or was going to turn into a domestic thriller. The plot could easily have gone either way. Fortunately the novel soon settles into the lighter path, and I felt the two elements melded very well after that. The mystery isn’t overly compelling – apart from the basic question of why you’d ever abandon your child – but the characters are strong enough that you want to keep reading.
It’s interesting that the characters are so engaging, because at bottom they’re really a series of stereotypes. The harried mother who’s lost something of herself. The young woman who on the surface has everything, but isn’t sure she’s happy. The good but not strongly drawn husband. The boyfriend who makes you roll your eyes because almost certainly, you dated someone that immature at some point. The flawless romantic prospect. And yet, their behaviour is interesting and credible enough that you genuinely want to find out what happens to them.
“After the Party” is well suited to its’ intended audience. There’s some (not particularly ground breaking) commentary about the challenges of motherhood, delivered often in a borderline comic tone. There’s a romance that doesn’t feel as high stakes as I think the author might hope for. The mystery elements around the abandoned child add a needed edge to the novel, but aren’t too overblown either. Readers looking for something well written but not too challenging are going to enjoy this.
I am a little tired of the trope of cliquey, fashionable, competitive mothers, partly because that’s not been my own experience at all. Hamer uses this trope in a more interesting, more realistic way than many writers, and this may strike a particular chord with mothers still in those early school years.
I did feel (and I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, so excuse the mild obscurity) that perhaps the novel skated a little too lightly over the emotional aftermath of events in the novel and what happened immediately afterwards. However, to be honest, such an examination wouldn’t have fitted at all with the overall tone of the novel. The last chapter, as written, is probably better for the reader than such an examination.
There are a number of things in the novel that you can criticise when you’re looking at it analytically. But as a reading experience, it’s a smooth and flowing read, light and good fun, and not overly demanding. We all have moments where we just want to be entertained, and “After the Party” does that well. It’s not very memorable, but a lot of people will just plain enjoy reading it.This guest review was submitted by Lorraine Cormack, one of our long-time Beauty and Lace Club members.Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Lorraine.
After The Party is published by HQ Fiction and is available now where all good books are sold.