Bring out the Bunting, Turn up the Volume, Face the Music and Dance - 20+ Brilliant Books Featuring Parties That’ll Have You Reading into the Early Hours.

Bringing together a bunch of people to let their hair down, or to celebrate something big, parties provide the perfect stage for explosive encounters. From booze-fuelled office bashes that lead to dramatic showdowns, to tense dinner parties that detonate with frank revelations, there’s no denying that such gatherings are a heady cocktail, with the anticipation around them - whether unfulfilled, exceeded, or else transformed into something entirely unexpected - leading to all manner of life-changing scenarios.

Of course, this also means parties provide the perfect set-up for pivotal moments in fiction - since the clink of glasses all too often leads to untold clashes, what better way to reveal who characters really are than putting them in a sparky party situation? (Warning - some of the novels outlined below may contain scenes of emotional intensity. That said, it’s your party, so you can cry if you want to).

Let’s start with an absolute stormer - The Great Gatsby. Though the novel tackles serious themes, there’s no denying it would have been a blast to sashay into one of Jay’s extravagant Champagne-fuelled socials. Then there’s Laura Wood’s sublimely escapist (and emotionally riveting) Gatsby-esque A Sky Painted Gold. Though ostensibly written for young adults, it’s one of the finest coming-of-age novels to be published in recent years, with a shimmering 1920s-setting, and a thrilling storyline that sees a girl-next-door fall for the local aristocrat during a summer of sumptuous soirees.

For costumed opulence, try Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea in which protagonist Zachary embarks on a marvellous magic realist quest after attending a lavish literary-themed masked party in New York. Talking of masks, Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Story (the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut movie) is a sexually-charged classic that culminates in a masquerade ball. Or how about Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, in which a cast of brilliant, bizarre characters wind up (but certainly don’t wind down) at Satan’s spring ball?

When it comes to classic social get-togethers, they don’t come more pivotal than the ball scene in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and the party in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. Or, for something festively cheering, there’s always Mr Fezziwig’s seasonal shindig in A Christmas Carol.

Back to contemporary reads, Bridget Jones sure knows a thing or two about gatherings that get out of hand (and go wrong). Then there’s The Nest (family 40th birthday dinners have never been so fraught), and Marie Aubert’s Grown-Ups. Centred around a 65th birthday celebration, this explores fractious family dynamics and lifelong sibling rivalry with much wit and wisdom. Or, for a brilliant psychological thriller involving a decadent Halloween party, dive into Bitterhall.

Lastly, mention must go to (arguably) the most iconic literary parties of all - the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland (with a such disparate gaggle of guests, and the presence of mind-altering substances, it couldn’t be anything but volatile), and Bilbo Baggins' eleventy-first birthday in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Without further ado, scroll down for a run-down of some of the best novels featuring fiery festivities.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/09/2020

Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach...Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby - young, handsome, fabulously rich - always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.

eBooks of the Month
NICK

NICK

Author: Michael Farris Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/09/2021

Critically acclaimed novelist Michael Farris Smith pulls Nick Carraway out of the shadows and into the spotlight in this exhilarating imagination of his life before The Great Gatsby. Before Nick Carraway moved to West Egg and into Gatsby’s world, he was at the centre of a very different story – one taking place along the trenches and deep within the tunnels of World War I. Floundering in the wake of the destruction he witnessed first-hand, Nick delays his return home, hoping to escape the questions he cannot answer about the horrors of war. Instead, he embarks on a transcontinental redemptive journey that takes him from a whirlwind Paris romance – doomed from the very beginning – to the dizzying frenzy of New Orleans, rife with its own flavour of debauchery and violence. An epic portrait of a truly singular era and a sweeping, romantic story of self-discovery, this rich and imaginative novel breathes new life into a character that many know only from the periphery. Charged with enough alcohol, heartbreak, and profound yearning to transfix even the heartiest of golden age scribes, Nick reveals the man behind the narrator who has captivated readers for decades.

Star Books
A Sky Painted Gold

A Sky Painted Gold

Author: Laura Wood Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/07/2018

A Sky Painted Gold is a gorgeously dreamy coming-of-age romance with all the charm and style of I Capture the Castle and Eva Ibbotson.  

The Party

The Party

Author: Lisa Hall Format: Paperback Release Date: 12/07/2018

It was just a party. But it turned into a nightmare. When Rachel wakes up in a strange room, the morning after a neighbour's party, she has no memory of what happened the night before. Why did her husband leave her alone at the party? Did they row? Why are Rachel's arms so bruised? And why are her neighbours and friends so vague about what really happened? Little by little, Rachel pieces together the devastating events that took place in a friend's house, at a party where she should have been safe. Everyone remembers what happened that night differently, and everyone has something to hide. But someone knows the truth about what happened to Rachel. And she's determined to find them. The Party is the gripping new novel from bestseller Lisa Hall.

The Party

The Party

Author: Robyn Harding Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/10/2017

It was supposed to be a celebration. How did it all go so wrong? Sweet sixteen. It's a coming of age, a milestone, a rite of passage. Of course Jeff and Kim Sanders will throw a party for their daughter, Hannah. She's a good kid with good grades and nice friends. And it isn't going to be a big, indulgent affair. Just four girls coming over for pizza and cake, movies and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong? But things do go wrong, horrifically wrong. After a tragic accident, Jeff and Kim's flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb begins to unravel. The injured girl's mother, Lisa, files a lawsuit that turns friends into enemies, reveals dark secrets in the Sanders' marriage, and exposes the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah. Lisa's determination to make the Sanders pay stems from a fierce love for her only child and Lisa's own dark and damaged past. In The Party, Christos Tsiolkas's The Slap meets Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies, taking us behind the facade of the perfect family, exploring the secrets, betrayals, and moral lapses the neighbors don't see. The Party uncovers the lies and duplicities that children and parents tell each other. And tell themselves.

Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway

Author: Virginia Woolf Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/05/2000

One of One of Will Self's favourite books. On a June morning in 1923, Clarissa Dalloway is preparing for a party and remembering her past. Elsewhere in London, Septimus Smith is suffering from shell-shock and on the brink of madness. Their days interweave and their lives converge as the party reaches its glittering climax.

eBooks of the Month
Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

Author: Jane Austen Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/09/2019

September 2009 Good Housekeeping selection. On My Bookshelf by Penny Smith... This wasn’t a set text for us at school, but I read it anyway and it got me into the classics big time. I had such vivid pictures of all the characters and places. Sadly, every adaptation, including the fantastic one with Colin Firth, was never a patch on my image of what they all looked like and were like. Plus I just love a love story… GMTV presenter Penny Smith is passionate about books and is now a novelist herself; her latest fiction, After The Break, is published by Harper Perennial.

eBooks of the Month
Grown Ups

Grown Ups

Author: Marie Aubert Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/06/2021

Short and brilliantly bittersweet, Marie Aubert’s Grown Ups packs plenty of existential trials into its 160 pages. Honest, entertaining, and poignant with it, Grown Ups shows how many of us never quite grow up through its nuanced, droll portrayal of family dynamics. Single architect Ida isn’t terribly keen on children - “other people’s children, always, everywhere” - but, at forty, as her family gather at their country cabin to celebrate her mother’s 65th birthday, she’s considering freezing her eggs for the future. Sibling tension and rivalry is succinctly and potently evoked from the outset, delivered through Ida’s engaging first-person narrative that often drifts into introspective monologues. Her younger sister Marthe is insecure, desperate to conceive, and envious of Ida. At the same time, Ida competes with Marthe (“She can’t overtake me”), sick of Tinder, and desperate for physical closeness, “to have someone come up behind me, hold me, their breath at my neck.” The cracks that come in the wake of Marthe’s big announcement widen further during their mother’s birthday meal, leaving both sisters forever changed.

eBooks of the Month
The Nest

The Nest

Author: Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/05/2016

June 2016 Debut of the Month. A thought-provoking and wittily pointed debut, about the life and loves of the Plumb family. There are four siblings at the centre of this novel, Leo causes uproar when a chunk of their common nest egg is syphoned off for him. A tale of love, hate and everything inbetween, complicated layers are peeled away, revealing a family in turmoil. There were times I almost felt as though I was eavesdropping, hearing a particularly juicy piece of gossip, could it possibly be true! The tale occasionally slips and slides away from the siblings, to other characters, the links combine to create moments of stillness and thought, or expose and cause mayhem. Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney writes with eloquence, she has a beautifully light touch as she captures moods and feelings and sets them free in your mind, to flicker and provoke. ‘The Nest’ is a gorgeously expressive and captivating read and I highly recommend making room for it on your bookshelf.

eBooks of the Month
The Secret History

The Secret History

Author: Donna Tartt Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/07/1993

A misfit at an exclusive New England college, Richard finds kindred spirits in the five eccentric students of his ancient Greek class. But his new friends have a horrific secret. When blackmail and violence threaten to blow their privileged lives apart, they drag Richard into the nightmare that engulfs them. And soon they enter a terrifying heart of darkness from which they may never return.

eBooks of the Month
The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/08/2018

In a Nutshell: Fighting for Justice | Black Lives Matter | Stunning, vital wake-up call of a novel about racism, social inequality and not giving up told through the eyes of an incredible, unforgettable sixteen-year-old. Starr straddles two very different worlds. She has one foot in Garden Heights, a rough neighbourhood ruled by gangs, guns and dealers, and the other in an exclusive school with an overwhelmingly wealthy white student population. One night she’s at a party when gunshots are fired and Khalil, her friend since childhood, takes her to his car for safety. Khalil is unarmed and poses no threat, but he’s shot dead by an officer right in front of her. It will take a lot of courage to speak to the police, and to face the media who choose to highlight that Khalil was a “suspected drug dealer”, while omitting to mention that he was unarmed. But, with their neighbourhood under curfew and a tank on the streets, Starr risks going public. Danger escalates as the hearing approaches (and beyond), but Starr isn’t about to give up fighting for Khalil, and for what’s right. Alongside the intense struggles and conflicts faced by Starr’s family and community, there are some truly heart-melting moments between Starr and her white boyfriend Chris (their shared love of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is super cute), and also between Starr and her parents. Complex, gripping, stirring and so, so important – I can’t recommend this remarkable debut enough. 

Audiobooks of the Month
Bel Canto

Bel Canto

Author: Ann Patchett Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/04/2002

Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2002. Terrorists highjack a gathering in a small Latin American country hoping to hold hostage the President, however he had decided to stay home and so the terrorists find themselves with a group of foreign hostages as their bargaining tool. This is not a book about violence and terrorism though this is a book about a group of people thrown together in extraordinary circumstances and the relationships that develop. A Powerful, emotional, treasure of a book.   A "Piece of Passion" from the publisher... Ann Patchett's novel is set in an unnamed South American country and is based on the 1996 Japanese embassy hostage crisis in Lima, Peru. Widely praised as one of the best books of 2001, Bel Canto went on to win the Orange Prize and become a bestseller – and rightly so. Patchett skilfully uses the dramatic events and a superb cast of characters to build a beautifully written novel, bursting with unexpected relationships and a wonderful sense of humour throughout.

eBooks of the Month
The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea

Author: Erin Morgenstern Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/08/2020

You are invited to join Zachary on the starless sea: the home of storytellers, story-lovers and those who will protect our stories at all costs. Discover the enchanting, magical new bestseller from the author of The Night Circus. When Zachary Rawlins stumbles across a strange book hidden in his university library it leads him on a quest unlike any other. Its pages entrance him with their tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities and nameless acolytes, but they also contain something impossible: a recollection from his own childhood. Determined to solve the puzzle of the book, Zachary follows the clues he finds on the cover - a bee, a key and a sword. They guide him to a masquerade ball, to a dangerous secret club, and finally through a magical doorway created by the fierce and mysterious Mirabel. This door leads to a subterranean labyrinth filled with stories, hidden far beneath the surface of the earth. When the labyrinth is threatened, Zachary must race with Mirabel, and Dorian, a handsome barefoot man with shifting alliances, through its twisting tunnels and crowded ballrooms, searching for the end of his story.

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Author: Lewis Carroll Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/09/2018

The story is timeless and can be read at so many different levels.  It’s a book that can be read by people of all ages; for children it’s a wonderful underworld fantasy that will develop a passion for reading  imaginative writing and for everyone else there’s innuendo, puzzling situations that require deciphering, political machinations and bucket loads of surrealism.  Plenty of food for thought and a real antidote to the modern world.

The Couple Next Door

The Couple Next Door

Author: Shari Lapena Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/04/2017

This book is the Sunday Times best-seller and WHSmith Book of the Year 2016. People are capalmost alomost anything. Meticulously crafted and razor-sharp. The Couple Next Door lingers long after you turn the final page. (Harlan Coben). Fast-paced and addictive, The Couple Next Door announces a major new talent in thriller writing. You never know what's happening on the other side of the wall. Your neighbour told you that she didn't want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn't stand her crying. Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You'll have the baby monitor and you'll take it in turns to go back every half hour. Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She's gone. You've never had to call the police before. But now they're in your home, and who knows what they'll find there. What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit? How well do we ever know those around us? The Couple Next Door will keep you glued to the pages in search of the answer. Even then, you'll never guess the truth...until it's too late. (Lisa Gardner).

eBooks of the Month
Little Lies

Little Lies

Author: Liane Moriarty Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/02/2017

Liane Moriarty, million copy selling author of The Husband's Secret brings us another addictive story of secrets and scandal. 'She could hear men and women shouting. Angry hollers crashed through the soft humid salty summer night. It was somehow hurtful for Mrs Ponder to hear, as if all that rage was directed at her ...then she heard the wail of a siren in the distance, at the same time as a woman still inside the building began to scream and scream...' When a harmless quiz night ends with an act of shocking violence, the parents of Pirriwee Public School can't seem to stop their many secrets from finally spilling out. Rumours ripple through the small town, as truth and lies blur to muddy the story of what really happened on that fateful night...

eBooks of the Month
Dream Story

Dream Story

Author: Arthur Schnitzler Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/07/1999

This wonderful translation of Dream Story will allow a fresh generation of readers to enjoy this beautiful, heartless and baffling novella. Dream Story tells how through a simple sexual admission a husband and wife ware driven apart into rival worlds of erotic revenge.

The Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring

Author: J. R. R. Tolkien Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/04/2020

One of my favourite books of all time, my copy is well-thumbed and a little crumpled now, but still sits in pride of place. I can disappear into the pages for hours and not come up for air. This isn’t fantasy for me, it’s a reality. Book in The Lord of the Rings Series: 1. The Fellowship of the Ring 2. The Two Towers 3. Return of the King Serial Reader? Check out our 'Fall in Love With a Book Series' collection to find amazing book series to dive in to.

The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita

Author: Mikhail Bulgakov Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/09/2021

The acclaimed, bestselling translation of Mikhail Bulgakov's masterwork, an undisputed classic of Russian and world literature An audacious revision of the stories of Faust and Pontius Pilate, The Master and Margarita is recognized as one of the essential classics of modern Russian literature. The novel's vision of Soviet life in the 1930s is so ferociously accurate that it could not be published during its author's lifetime and appeared only in a censored edition in the 1960s. Its truths are so enduring that its language has become part of the common Russian speech. Now The Overlook Press is reissuing this acclaimed translation in an all-new package. One hot spring, the devil arrives in Moscow, accompanied by a retinue that includes a beautiful naked witch and an immense talking black cat with a fondness for chess and vodka. The visitors quickly wreak havoc in a city that refuses to believe in either God or Satan. But they also bring peace to two unhappy Muscovites: one is the Master, a writer pilloried for daring to write a novel about Christ and Pontius Pilate; the other is Margarita, who loves the Master so deeply that she is willing to literally go to hell for him. What ensues is a novel of inexhaustible energy, humor, and philosophical depth, a work whose nuances splendidly emerge in Diana Burgin's and Katherine Tiernan O'Connor's superb English translation, with an afterword and extensive commentary by Ellendea Proffer.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Author: Charles Dickens Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/08/2021

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Bitterhall A Novel

Bitterhall A Novel

Author: Helen McClory Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Reeling with edge-of-your-seat atmosphere and the entangled lives, lusts and obsessions of three compelling characters involved in a unique ménage à trois (of sorts), Helen McClory’s Bitterhall is a brilliantly unnerving novel that explores the liminal blurring of inner life with outer reality. Narrated by the three characters in intense, short, tight episodes, their lives begin to unravel due to the eerie influence of a nineteenth-century diary, with matters coming to an irreversible, bewildering crescendo at a decadent Halloween party. Daniel Lightfoot’s voice opens the book, breaking the metafictional fourth wall by addressing readers direct: “I want you to love me, if I’m being honest. That’s why I start so gently, in the garden, in the present tense. A good story begins tipsily in a garden, and carries on through well-proportioned rooms in the past tense in which blood is being spilled and was spilled.” His work involves futuristic 3D printing technology that aims to “copy important rare objects from all over the world to create replicas, mostly for museums.” He wants to “keep the old things safe... To save the past, but let people in.” Another link to the past is the nineteenth-century diary he’s reading, an intriguing document written by James Lennoxlove, the ancestor of his best friend. The diary finds its way to Daniel’s new flatmate, Tom, who can’t put it down and obsesses over Lennoxlove. Both Daniel and Tom’s girlfriend Órla notice a strange shift in Tom, the extent of which is revealed though Tom’s haunted, tormented narrative, and all three accounts of the Halloween party. Laced with Daniel’s dry wit alongside the growing confusion and creeping sense of madness (“Whatever I had done, I had done with my socks on”), this shrewdly-written read rises to a gripping, question-raising climax.

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