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The Shooting Party

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  775 ratings  ·  111 reviews
It is the autumn of 1913. Sir Randolph Nettleby has assembled a brilliant array of guests at his Oxfordshire estate for the biggest hunt of the season. It seems a perfect consummation of the pleasures of Edwardian England, but the moral and social code of this group is not so secure as it appears.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published November 7th 2002 by Counterpoint (first published 1980)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  775 ratings  ·  111 reviews

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I saw the film of this book, many years ago. Well, when I say I saw the film, I did not see the beginning or the middle and probably not the end of it either, but I definitely saw a chunk between the middle and the end.

Naturally then it struck me that the book is very cinematic, the omniscient narrator moves like a camera operator, editing as she goes, from character to character - the grandees and the servants at the Oxfordshire home of Sir Randolph Nettlesby for a shooting weekend, in the autu
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed

‘Is it really so bad?’ asked Olivia. ‘The countryside looks so beautiful and the people so happy.’
‘They’re having a hard time. We hear a lot these days about factory workers and conditions in slums. No one bothers about rural poverty – we deal with it locally of course as best we can but when there’s no money in land there’s no money for charity. No one cares about country people. All the attention goes to the towns.’
‘I should have thought that every English person’s deepest idea of England
Already an adequate synopsis on offer for the story. This should have been a short novel but it was quite a dense and thoughtful read.

Wonderful characterisation and atmosphere, a way of life that is lost forever. All the characters both the primary and secondary are strongly depicted but it's was the culture and values of a bygone era that was the standout.

Came across this on the Boxall 1001 list. Well worth the read.

Apr 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-lit
With a light, deft touch, Isabel Colgate explores the autumn of Edwardian England as encapsulated in a country shooting party. It's the fall of 1913, and Sir Randolph Nettleby is hosting an assortment of well-heeled guests at his country estate for a weekend of shooting, gossip, and mild intrigue. There’s class conflict, subtle love stories, a missing pet duck, unforgivable egos, and a wandering animal rights activist who, oddly enough, immediately hits it off with Sir Randolph. The temptation f ...more
Susan's Reviews
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book many years ago, when I was quite young and still believed in "fairy tale true love". We humans love to tell stories - and believe them - for all sorts of reasons. SPOILER ALERT: The hero and heroine will never marry and form a family unit: however, the heroine's husband is silently aware of their lifelong liaison, and even approves the hero's bloodlines. This is an acceptable form of behaviour in their "set". This book severely challenged by youthful illusions, but I came to rea ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I learned about this book from Second Reading: Notable and Neglected Books Revisited by Jonathan Yardley, a Pulitzer winning reviewer. I added a dozen of those books to my shelves, but have so far read only two. I am somewhat amused at myself as those books are similar in that they have little plot but a lot of characterization. Of these, I can see why they were included for second (or third!) readings.

In The Shooting Party, the characterization is not just of the people in the novel, but of th
Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Touted as the book that inspired Downton Abbey (in an ugly and annoying sticker that I can't peel off of my book without a mess) I'm surprised I'm not seeing more people reading this book. It really does read like a BBC drama for anyone looking to get a dose of a British country house in Edwardian England. The story revolves around one weekend when a shooting party is held on the Oxfordshire estate of Sir Randolph Nettleby. There are affairs to be considered when doing the seating plans and riva ...more
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie, Wanda
From BBC Radio 4 - 15 Minute Drama:
by Isabel Colegate, dramatised by DJ Britton, narrated by Olivia Colman

Autumn 1913. A shooting party on an Oxfordshire country estate. A whole society under the microscope, a society soon to be destroyed in the trenches of the Western Front.

The eve of the shoot.


Narrator ..... Olivia Colman
Cicely Nettleby ..... Ellie Kendrick
Sir Randolph Nettleby ..... Sam Dale
Olivia Lilburn ..... Jaimi Barbakoff
Lionel Stephens ..... Michael Shelford
Minnie Nettleby ..... Chr
Aug 14, 2009 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-england
Just before the outbreak of WW1, a group of English aristocrats gather on the countryside estate of Sir Randolph to take part in his annual hunting party. What follows are urban vs. rural, young vs. old, rich vs. poor, tradition vs. modernity, dichotomies that hang over the story like an approaching storm that threatens to destroy everyone involved.
There is a singular physical tragedy here but it seems Colegate was more interested in examining how social position is no bulwark against persona
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this very much. I had to keep putting it down and picking it up later, (life intervened), but feel it would be better to read it in one or two sittings. It had a vast number of characters and you had to concentrate to keep track of them.
The story ambles along, like a river in Summer, meandering on it's way to the sea not caring or even aware of what's going on around it. Self importance is the order of the day.
It is a character driven story, the end of an era that was not yet realise
The book starts like this: "It caused a mild scandal at the time, but in most people's memories it was quite outshone by what succeeded it....It was an error of judgment which resulted in a death. It took place in the autumn before the outbreak of what used to be known as the Great War." And so everything these people do, no matter how frivolous or trivial, becomes weighted with significance because this doom--the particular doom of this one death, and the larger doom of the coming war that is g ...more
Dec 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I was reminded of this novel when I watched the terrific film made of it (with James Mason -- perfect as the English gentleman, old school -- and John Gilegud -- perfect as the eccentric pacifist. Set in 1913, portentously, on the eve of the First World War, at a massive country house; the aristocrats are gathered for blood sport (Edward Fox is very good as the example par excellance of the stiff-upper-lip type). The thunderous blasts of the shotguns prefigure the more destructive guns of the wa ...more
Kris Herndon
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a good example of third-person omniscient point-of-view :) and a really good book. It tells the story of a group of characters who converge in a particular place; a tragic event that takes place there; and what happens after.

Unlike a lot of these Grand-Hotel type multi-character narratives, it's not sprawling or epic. It's just that the author wants to show one particular thing and what it means to many different people. It's skillfully done and very enjoyable.
H.J. Moat
Aug 31, 2018 rated it liked it
This is supposedly Julian Fellowes's initial inspiration for Downton Abbey (or more accurately, his inspiration for Gosford Park which in turn led to Downton Abbey) and I LOVE Downton, for all of it's later season flaws. It basically tells the story of a group of aristocrats and their servants over the course of one weekend in 1913 (I think - it's just before WWI), during which a shoot takes place.
It's quite a lot chillier than Downton, with none of the soapy storylines, and written in a very d
Beth Bonini
As Nancy Mitford would say: DO read this novel if you are interested in the British aristocracy, particularly during that apotheosis described as the ‘Edwardian era’. This isn’t the sort of book that engenders a deep emotional response, but I got a lot of pleasure from reading such a well-constructed story. I suppose you could describe it as an elegant and precise dissection of a particular culture; it takes its subject quite seriously, though. Manners and form are of paramount importance, but i ...more
May 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: discuss-it
The Shooting Party is set in England in 1913,
in the months preceding the outbreak of World War I and the action takes place over just twenty-four hours.
It is a snapshot of a way of life which was soon to vanish and I liked the way the story was condensed into such a short time. I also enjoyed the language and the way it was written.
There are a lot of characters for such a short book, which made them difficult to all tell apart sometimes. The shooting party members
didn't have very different op
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very satisfying read. The author has focussed on a weekend's bird shooting (mainly grouse) at the estate of a wealthy mansion owner in England a year or two before the outbreak of World War one. Noted gentry, who are recognised for their shooting ability are invited along with their spouses for a weekends shoot. There are many characters in the novel but each are so well described and integrated to the story in a way that all are readily remembered as the intensity of the story evolves. The de ...more
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
a good story about aristocrats who cannot abide by new rules, who want to ignore the rumors of war, who want to go on as always -
beautiful characters study
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set on an Oxfordshire country estate in the autumn of 1913, The Shooting Party presents a terrific insight into the dying days of the Edwardian era, the beginning of the end of a time-honoured way of life for the English upper classes.

The novel follows the final twenty-four hours of a three-day shoot, a landmark event in the social calendar of the Nettlebys and their immediate set. Our host is Sir Randolph Nettleby, a landowner and member of the old guard, one who values the long-established tra
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
every day I think about edwardian england
Mary Robinson
An aristrocratic shooting party in the days before World War I, showing both the strengths and great weaknesses of this privileged group, the class system that made them privileged and the questionable rite of the shooting party. Beautifully written, evocative of that time period. Good for Downton Abbey fans.
Jan 18, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is a well-told story of a shooting party at a manor house of the landed gentry, set just prior to WWI, which was the beginning of the end of this way of life across England. The bulk of the storytelling takes place over the two days of the shooting party, and therefore provides detailed descriptions of setting and also the social norms of the time. Written in 1980, it is not a contemporary novel but manages to both retain the style and viewpoint of the time and provide a critique of it ...more
Tea & Tattle Book Club - Autumn 2018 ...more
Mar 29, 2013 added it
Continuing with my quest to read every book we own. I picked this one up used at some point, probably many years ago. Who knows how many times it had moved with me. Sometimes I find pure gold that has been on shelf unread and undiscovered for decades. Sometimes I find stuff that I could have disposed of years ago. The Shooting Party falls into the later category for me.

Even though the subject matter is really old hat to me at this point, I wanted to like this book. I don't. Colegate's writing i
Valerie Lincy
This is the story of what happens during a weekend shooting party held at Nettleby Park, an estate in the English countryside, in the period just before the beginning of the first World War. The central story is a rivalry between two men that leads to an accident (don't want to ruin it!). But the main interest is this moment in time that Colegate has captured...perfectly. A younger generation eager for change, an older generation mourning the loss of feudal traditions f the English countryside. ...more
Jul 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
For me, this is sounding the Great War—from the Belle-Epoch through Mark Helprin, The Soldier of the Great War—savoring a Masterpiece Theater-like series in my mind: “Keeping to the shelter of the trees he (Cornelius Cardew) fixed the piece of cardboard—on which as bitten i large red letters THOU SHALT NOT KILL—to the top of his stick and waited for the beaters to disappear into the wood… As he (Dan Glass’s father) stepped out of the trees he did not see the woodcock which flew out low and fast ...more
Evan Thomas
Oct 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Just a perfect gem of a book. Colegate adds layer upon layer complexity to make the modern reader interested in the lives of characters that they will have nothing in common with except desire, envy, and ambition. Like the best plays it takes a limited scene, a small cast, one day and weaves them into nest of complication that hurtles (perhaps somewhat obviously) towards tragedy in a world we know is doomed to extinction.
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book should have been everything I like: accurate historical depiction, insightful character portraits, subtle, good prose, etc etc. And it was just SO uninteresting. I slogged my way into it, hoping that eventually I'd care about anything that was happening or anyone it was happening to, and about 3/4 of the way to the end I gave up, overwhelmed by my sheer lack of caring. Just skimmed the rest, and I don't regret it.
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Forgotten Classic...: 4/18 The Shooting Party 28 8 Apr 18, 2018 09:42AM  

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Isabel Colegate was born in 1931 in London and was educated at Runton Hill School in Norfolk. In 1952 she went into partnership with Anthony Blond, who was then starting a literary agency and would go on to found a publishing house, and in 1953 she married Michael Briggs, with whom she has a daughter and two sons.

Colegate’s first novel, The Blackmailer, was published by Blond in 1958 and was follo

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