Shelleyrae at Book'd Out's Reviews > After the Party

After the Party by Lisa Jewell
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Sep 25, 2011

really liked it
Read from November 22 to 23, 2011

Eleven years ago, in Lisa Jewell's debut novel Ralph's Party, Jem and Ralph fell in love. After the Party tells us what happens next, shattering the illusion of happy ever after with the reality of the responsibilities of a long term relationship. Jem and Ralph are now parents to two children, three year old Scarlett and 4 month old Blake, both conceived after unexplained infertility and several miscarriages. Family life has a put a strain on their relationship, Jem is tired a lot of the time, Ralph resents the lack of attention and using alternating viewpoints the author explores the cracks that have appeared in the relationship that threaten to divide Jem and Ralph forever.
I was quickly absorbed in the story of After The Party and it's realistic and confronting examination of a long term relationship. For Jem and Ralph, their new family has changed the nature of their partnership. In becoming a parent, Ralph feels like he has lost things he can barely articulate like the chance to reinvent himself and the freedom of his unencumbered relationship with Jem. His ambivalence towards his children manifests in a lack of participation in the everyday routines and responsibilities of family life. For Jem, motherhood is wonderful but exhausting and with Ralph abdicating responsibility for even the simplest of chores, she resents his desire for intimacy when she feels she is too tired and too busy to oblige. Both are frustrated and even though they are aware their relationship is crumbling they are unable to communicate their needs and wants. The disconnect between Jem and Ralph is familiar to me, and I found I really identified with their situation. Parenthood changes a relationship irrevocably and you either grow together as you adjust to the new demands or drift apart. I felt that the author skillfully illustrated how both partners were feeling though I admit I had more sympathy for Jem than Ralph, at least initially. Interestingly I didn't find Jem nor Ralph particularly likeable as it is easy to see how their own immature behaviour contributes directly to the problems they have but at the same time I related to their floundering and think it is much easier to judge the situation from a distance.
I do think Jewell pushed the boat a little far with some of the plot lines, complicating it needlessly in places. I don't believe that Jem would have considered an abortion after what she went through to have children in the first place and neither do I believe Ralph would have been quite so understanding at being stood up.
I think After The Party could be confronting for readers who prefer a happy ever after ending but comforting for those who are at, or have been at, a similar crossroads in their relationship. The emotions, if not some of the situations, are genuine and compelling and overall I was truly engrossed in this heartfelt novel.
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