The Afterparty by Leo Benedictus
I opened the front cover and was confronted with the lines This book is different. You've really never read a book like this before. Confident words, I thought but will the book live up to this lofty expectation I now had? And when I got round to reading the notes at the end of the novel, I was pleasantly surprised and also rather taken aback, I have to say. So, a refreshing take on the modern work of fiction, I thought, as I started on Chapter One.
|The Afterparty by Leo Benedictus
|Category: General Fiction
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie
|Summary: This book's time span covers a rather glamorous party and Afterparty one night in London. Several interesting characters attend (invitation only) but in amongst the glitz and champagne, a dreadful situation starts to unfold.
|Date: March 2011
|Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd
And here's another line to get the reader thinking, wondering - an April night that never happened. Immediately I'm thinking - how can that be. And without wishing to spoil what is a gloriously original storyline, it's like those Russian dolls. A story within a story, within a ... But don't worry, all becomes clear, crystal clear.
The clues as to the style of the novel are scattered all over the place. Even as early as inside the front cover, the language used is such that I was thinking - wait a minute, what's all this about? And, as the title suggests, we open with an 'A' list party. Guests such as 'Elton' underline that fact. And then we see that there's a gatecrasher, sort of, at the event. Someone who clearly doesn't belong. Like the proverbial fish out of water. Michael. Poor Michael. And Benedictus wastes no time in having some fun with the very unglamorous Michael. He's a joke basically. But, as he's doing his best to stuff his face with canapes and throw champagne down his throat, he's got a job to do. He's a journalist and he's at the party to report back all the juicy bits of gossip to his boss, presumably for the tabloids the next day. The famous couple hosting the party (Hugo and his wife Mellody) are loved and adored by millions of fans. He's in Hollywood films and she's a super-model (or was until fairly recently). Benedictus' telling of the party is a hoot and it's a terrific piece of writing. I'm reading it and cringing - but I'm also wanting more. Geeky Michael has very little in the way of social skills. Did one need permission, he wondered, to climb up to the balcony? is only one of his many problems to try and solve.
Cleverly, Benedictus brings into his story the whole mania surrounding the X-Factor. One of the characters (who did not win the show but probably thinks that he should have) is now trying to make a name for himself in the music industry. And yes, Simon Cowell and his drawl are in evidence. And also in evidence is that age-old adage: there are those with talent who think they've none and then there are those who have none who think they've got it in spades. Read it and weep, basically. Bitter-sweet. The names, the language used, the emotions, the neediness, the self-importance, the insecurities etc are all here and all get the terrific Benedictus treatment.
The whole book is interspersed at regular intervals with emails. And again, the reader will probably be wondering - now, what's all that about. But it all becomes clear. And it works in this book. In fact, I would describe it as a creative tour de force. I was really impressed. I haven't come across this format (if I can call it that) before and I feel personally that it deserves praise. I loved it all. And just when I thought that Benedictus had reached his creative best - he decided to prove me wrong. If you enjoy witty, modern fiction (with a generous dollop of 'celebrity' on the side) then book's for you. Thoroughly recommended.
If this book appeals then try A Bit of a Scandal by Mary Rose Callaghan.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Afterparty by Leo Benedictus at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Afterparty by Leo Benedictus at Amazon.com.
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