Robyn Harding’s The Party is a clever, modern novel that explores peer pressure and domestic issues, and will certainly resonate with a large audience of readers. Each chapter focuses on one of four central characters – Kim, Jeff, Hannah and Lisa – before and after a tragic incident.
Kim and Jeff Sanders appear to be the epitome of domestic perfection. Kim is in her mid-forties, works as a freelance copywriter, is a Pilates fanatic and is obsessed with her material possessions. Jeff works for a tech company in Palo Alto where he must keep pace with the energetic wunderkinds in Silicon Valley start-up companies. The pair have two children, and live in the ‘coveted North Slope’ of Potrero Hill. Readers are immediately made aware of the Sanders’ wealth, with luxury brand names such as Miele, Gucci, Audi, Tory Burch, Chanel and Tesla peppered throughout the novel, as well as descriptions of their ‘spectacular views of San Francisco Bay’ and ‘three-thousand-square-foot, mid-century modern remodelled home’.
To celebrate their daughter Hannah’s sixteenth birthday, Kim and Jeff Sanders allow Hannah to invite over four of her closest friends for a sleepover. As the day begins to unfold, readers are given greater insight into the family dynamics, and the strain between each of its members. While Kim and Jeff have been married for eighteen years, they have become increasingly distant. The lack of passion in her own relationship has caused Kim to seek attention by other means, namely from her co-worker, Tony. Hannah fears being a social outcast, and worries that her parents will embarrass her in front of her friends. Jeff feels like he is treading on eggshells around his wife, and wants Hannah to see him as the ‘cooler’ parent. Lisa, the mother of one of Hannah’s party guests and an old friend of Kim’s, is described as far less affluent than the Sanders, and unlike their seemingly perfect family, she is painted as a struggling single mother.
Robyn Harding’s excellent novel details the ramifications of a party that spirals out of control, the nastiness that arises between old friends, and the measures that parents will take to protect all that they hold dear. Indiscretions, manipulation, bullying, and social status pervade The Party, as each character seeks to clear themselves of any wrongdoing. While teenagers may rebel and hide their own secrets, it becomes increasingly clear that the actions of their parents are just as bad.
– Emily Pullen, WHSmith Australia