I have never read a book where the characters are so odious and yet, have been so intrigued to find out what happens to them.
The Party is about the friendship between Martin Gilmour and Ben Fitzmaurice.
It’s a dark tale of unhealthy obsession and cruel betrayal and despite the fact there were no redeeming features about Martin or Ben, I couldn’t put it down.
The two meet as teenagers when Martin wins a scholarship to public school* Burtonbury; he struggles to fit in.
Martin doesn’t come from money, he is very insecure, he’s never really had any friends, he simmers with rage and that can spill over into violence.
Ben on the other hand is the golden boy.
He’s popular, clever, attractive, sporty and full of charm.
Against all odds Ben and Martin become friends; Martin becomes an honorary Fitzmaurice, it’s the feeling of belonging that Martin’s been desperate to feel and entry into a world of privilege and wealth, but it comes with a price tag. You see, Martin’s been carrying Ben’s secret for 25 years.
On the night of Ben’s 40th, Martin’s growing unease comes to a head.
There’s a growing distance between him and his “best friend”, something feels off, that familiar feeling of not belonging has reared its head again but Martin’s convinced that Ben wouldn’t do anything to jeopardise their friendship.
Some kind of incident takes place, the book is set in the aftermath of the most elaborate party I’ve ever read about and slowly pieces together the build-up to the incident.
Each chapter is broken into three sections: Martin’s police interview following the party; Matin’s memories of the night in question, meeting Ben, their friendship growing up and Martin’s wife Lucy’s diary.
I had said that the characters in this book were odious, by and large they were apart from Lucy. I liked Lucy, she didn’t always act in the best way or make the best choices, marrying Martin was a big mistake for a kick-off, but she was perceptive, she was loyal, she did care, and she was the only character not lying to herself.
Lucy is not to be underestimated, she comes across as ordinary, she’s a lot sharper than people think, she is my cup of tea.
Martin’s behaviour is so out there, he’s so creepy; he’s obsessed with Ben; he goes to extremes to force a friendship with and to keep that friendship going. He’s obsessed with being part of the world of the rich and famous. He’s also a raging snob, he looks down on everyone as being boorish; he literally has nothing good to say about anyone whether it’s regarding their intellect or appearance. He really needs to get over himself.
He’s also blind to what’s really happening. Martin is in love in with Ben, it does not go both ways, in fact I think Ben only loves himself; poor old Martin thinks Ben actually cares about him.
The whole story feels incredibly claustrophobic, Martin smothers Ben, tries to compete with his wife Serena (who was a total stuck up bitch). Ben’s desperate to cut Martin loose. He’s condescending referring to Martin as LS (little shadow), he’s used Martin for over twenty years and now he’s no use to him, is determined to end the friendship and in a fairly brutal way, even going to the effort of making sure his lavish 40th is the last time they’ll see each other – if that doesn’t scream egomaniac, I have no idea what does.
I loved how Day conveyed Martin’s anger throughout this story, it was dripping in fury. Martin’s hell bent on revenge, he’s furious, especially when he comes to the realisation that Ben will always be fine; that wealth, power and charm can make you untouchable, give you a sense of entitlement and allow you treat people however you want.
“Ben Fitzmaurice will carry on being as beloved as ever.
That’s the problem with charm. It means you get away with stuff. It means you never have to develop a real character because no one remember to look for one.” Elizabeth Day
Martin learns too late the value of things, who really cares about him and what loyalty looks like.
This was a great read, I was so intrigued reading this, the suspense kept on building. Yes, most of the characters were bloody awful but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this book, I normally have to like and care about characters, or a book won’t hold my attention, in this case I really wanted to see what the payoff was going to be. I had to know what the incident was and how they’d ended up in this toxic friendship, I was drawn in by how dark this tale is.
Ben and Martin deserved each other, they were both complete nightmares, yet strangely compelling.
*For those outside the UK, for some reason we call private schools public schools here, I have no idea why.
P.S That’s two off my TBR list of 10
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