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A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Fiction

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Forty of the greatest fictional festivities as seen through the eyes of the world's greatest writers. People love to party. And writers love to attend and document these occasions. The party is a useful literary device, not only for social commentary and satire but also as an occasion where characters can meet, fall in and out of love, or even get murdered. A Curious Invitat Forty of the greatest fictional festivities as seen through the eyes of the world's greatest writers. People love to party. And writers love to attend and document these occasions. The party is a useful literary device, not only for social commentary and satire but also as an occasion where characters can meet, fall in and out of love, or even get murdered. A Curious Invitation is a humorous and informative guide to literature's most memorable parties. Some of these parties are depictions of real events, like the Duchess of Richmond's ball on the eve of battle with Napoleon in Thackeray's Vanity Fair; others draw on the authors' experience of the society they lived in, such as Lady Metroland's party in Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies; while others come straight from the writer's bizarre imagination, like Douglas Adams' flying party above an unknown planet from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Witty, entertaining, and full of fabulous detail, A Curious Invitation offers readers the chance to crash some of the great parties in literary history.


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Forty of the greatest fictional festivities as seen through the eyes of the world's greatest writers. People love to party. And writers love to attend and document these occasions. The party is a useful literary device, not only for social commentary and satire but also as an occasion where characters can meet, fall in and out of love, or even get murdered. A Curious Invitat Forty of the greatest fictional festivities as seen through the eyes of the world's greatest writers. People love to party. And writers love to attend and document these occasions. The party is a useful literary device, not only for social commentary and satire but also as an occasion where characters can meet, fall in and out of love, or even get murdered. A Curious Invitation is a humorous and informative guide to literature's most memorable parties. Some of these parties are depictions of real events, like the Duchess of Richmond's ball on the eve of battle with Napoleon in Thackeray's Vanity Fair; others draw on the authors' experience of the society they lived in, such as Lady Metroland's party in Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies; while others come straight from the writer's bizarre imagination, like Douglas Adams' flying party above an unknown planet from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Witty, entertaining, and full of fabulous detail, A Curious Invitation offers readers the chance to crash some of the great parties in literary history.

30 review for A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Daenerys

    I picked up this book at the public library after a morning of unsuccessful job-hunting, in the hopes that it would keep me entertained during my lunch break. As it turns out, it was an okay book to spend an hour with but if it wasn’t for my inability to leave books unfinished I would not have continued reading it. I still have no idea why I chose it. What can be said on a book about parties? According to the title, the book covers “The forty greatest parties in literature”. A look at the table I picked up this book at the public library after a morning of unsuccessful job-hunting, in the hopes that it would keep me entertained during my lunch break. As it turns out, it was an okay book to spend an hour with but if it wasn’t for my inability to leave books unfinished I would not have continued reading it. I still have no idea why I chose it. What can be said on a book about parties? According to the title, the book covers “The forty greatest parties in literature”. A look at the table of contents is enough to show that while some of these parties are found in very famous books, not all can be considered “great”, unless by “great party in literature” you mean “any party described in a book, no matter how famous/popular, which caught the author’s fancy”. While some of the entries are obvious (the Saturday night parties from The Great Gatsby, Bilbo Baggin’s 111st birthday party, the prom from Carrie) others do not seem to have a good reason to feature in this book: Lights Out in Wonderland is only four years old, and although I know nothing about Hollywood Wives other than what I read in this book it doesn’t exactly strike me as a literary masterpiece (and the party itself is not that interesting either). In many cases there doesn’t seem to be a clear reason why that particular party was chosen: of all the balls in Austen’s novels, why Mansfield Park ? The same applies to the Duchess of Richmond’s ball from Vanity Fair, which contributes very little to the plot of the novel, although in this case the date of the party (it was held the evening before a battle in the Napoleonic wars) contributes to its significance. While I appreciate that Field has the right to include any party she likes in her own book, I would have liked to read more detailed explanations regarding her choices. Some feeble attempts are made by outlining the legacy of the book in question at the end of each chapter, but at other times the paragraph is just filled with vaguely related information (like how many times Margaret Thatcher has appeared in works of fiction) which is clearly there just so that the paragraph doesn’t have to be skipped altogether. Another thing that really bugged me was the lack of any order or continuity: the central theme or message of each party is briefly described (usually in one sentence), but parties with similar undertones are not grouped together, which is a shame as this would have created opportunities for comparing novels from completely different authors and time periods. Finally, the most annoying thing: the casual comments about archaeology, and parties in the past. “Men and women, hunters and gatherers, shared food and lodgings as a natural consequence of tribal living” doesn’t mean anything. There is no set of practices, ancient or modern, that can be accurately described with the term “tribal living”. I share lodgings and occasionally food with my housemates, and sometimes we throw parties - does that make us a tribe? Suzette Field is no scholar, but this and other similar remarks scattered throughout the book managed to tick me off considerably. I feel like I’m overreacting to (and overanalysing) a frivolous book about parties, but as it happens the reviews for books I didn’t enjoy tend to be quite long, and this is no exception. Is this book shallow? Yes. Is it interesting? Sometimes. Does it provide any interesting insight into the deeper significance/symbolism of each party? No. Could it be used as a source of inspiration in case you wanted to throw a bizarre, outrageous party of your own? Well, in theory, but there’s no practical advice, and if you’ve already read all of the books in the table of contents then it’s a waste of time. The one thing it does (at least it did for me) is contain a list of potentially intriguing books that you may never have heard of before, and that you may want to add to your to-read list.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    To begin, the eclectic mix of literary parties in this compendium really was wonderful. The author clearly did A TON of reading in researching this collection. The problem, however, was that she seemed to be writing in a perpetual state of boredom and ire. There was an awful lot of snark for events that (mostly) lightened their respective narratives. I mean, how could anyone act disgusted with Winnie the Pooh or Gandalf? Yet this author does. Finally, she makes a clear point in the introduction To begin, the eclectic mix of literary parties in this compendium really was wonderful. The author clearly did A TON of reading in researching this collection. The problem, however, was that she seemed to be writing in a perpetual state of boredom and ire. There was an awful lot of snark for events that (mostly) lightened their respective narratives. I mean, how could anyone act disgusted with Winnie the Pooh or Gandalf? Yet this author does. Finally, she makes a clear point in the introduction that the literary works featured are strictly fictitious. However, several parties herein were actually historical (ancient but traditionally historical). That made me grumbly. Overall, this collection would be great for anyone wanting to add to a TBR list as long as the author’s negative attitude could be overlooked.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    *I received a copy through a First Reads giveaway* It was a lot of fun exploring parties in literature and the social mores in the eras they took place in. The themes and settings of the books featured vary widely - a major plus if you are a hard core reader, love all types of genres and are always looking for book blurbs that will help lead you to your next read. Some parties are full of delight and wonder, and some are just disasters from the very beginning. And although the fashion trends and *I received a copy through a First Reads giveaway* It was a lot of fun exploring parties in literature and the social mores in the eras they took place in. The themes and settings of the books featured vary widely - a major plus if you are a hard core reader, love all types of genres and are always looking for book blurbs that will help lead you to your next read. Some parties are full of delight and wonder, and some are just disasters from the very beginning. And although the fashion trends and customs gradually change through time, one thing I found in reading this book is that when a group of people gather together to mingle, the subject of the cost of living and moral decline are always hot topics, no matter how much one tries to stray away from these topics in a festive setting. Many of the stories, even one or two dated back to Roman and pre-Roman times, highlight these topics. The author does a great job of balancing humor with facts and back stories of each of the featured books and their authors. There are too many fun facts to list here, so I’ll just highlight a few that come to mind: - Mrs. Norris, the mean cat owned by Filch in the Harry Potter series, is named after one of the mean and nosy aunts found in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. - Trimalchio (from text dated back to AD 63-5), is the host of a party. He is described as a self-made millionaire ex-slave. This guy is just wretched and pompous and uses every opportunity to flaunt his wealth, so you can imagine just how over the top his parties were. A fun fact I found interesting is that instead of The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald intended to name his novel Trimalchio of West Egg. His publisher convinced him that many of the readers would not be able to understand the literary reference, and so Great Gatsby it was... - Daphne du Maurier’s Manderley was based on an abandoned estate in Cornwall called Menabilly. After her success with Rebecca, du Maurier purchased and renovated the property and featured the house in 2 other novels. If you’re interested in knowing which other parties were featured, see below for all 40 documented in this book. 1. Trimalchio’s Dinner Party – The Satyricon 2. Gatsby’s Saturday Night Parties - The Great Gatsby 3. Queen Alice’s Feast - Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There 4. Dmitri Karamazov’s Revel at Mokroye – The Brothers Karamazov 5. A Little Ball at Roxana’s House – Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress 6. The Strange Fête – Le Grand Meaulnes 7. The Ball at Mansfield Park - Mansfield Park 8. Belshazzar’s Feast – The Book of Daniel, The Bible 9. The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball - Vanity Fair 10. The Onion Cellar – The Tin Drum 11. The Chief of Police’s Reception - The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarrelled with Ivan Nikiforovich 12. The Beverly Hills Party – Hollywood Wives 13. Bilbo Baggins’s Eleventy-First Birthday Party - The Fellowship of the Ring 14. The Ponteleone Ball – The Leopard 15. The Symposium – The Symposium 16. The Marquise de Saint-Euverte’s Musical Soirée - Swann's Way 17. Satan’s Rout – The Master and Margarita 18. The Lord Mayor’s Ball - The Diary of a Nobody 19. The Bacchanal of the Century – The Wild Ass's Skin 20. Dick Hawk-Monitor’s 21st Birthday Party – Cold Comfort Farm 21. The Blossom Viewing Party – The Tale of Genji 22. Mrs. Leo Hunter’s Costume Breakfast – The Pickwick Papers 23. The Masque of the Red Death – The Masque of the Red Death 24. The Fedden’s 25th Wedding Anniversary Party – The Line of Beauty 25. The College Summer Ball – Lucky Jim 26. The Anubis Orgy – Gravity's Rainbow 27. Lady Metroland’s Party – Vile Bodies 28. The Warrior Feast – The Prose Edda 29. The Fifth Avenue Party – Bonfire of the Vanities 30. A Pooh Party – Winnie-the-Pooh 31. The Manderley Fancy Dress Ball – Rebecca 32. Mr. Hosokawa’s 53rd Birthday Party – Bel Canto 33. The Paris City Aldermen’s Ball – The Three Musketeers 34. Don Alejo’s Election Party – Hell Has No Limits 35. The Society of Artist’s Fancy Dress Ball – Steppenwolf 36. The Thomas Ewen High School Prom – Carrie 37. Finnegan’s Wake – Finnegans Wake 38. The Flying Party – Life, the Universe and Everything 39. McMurphy’s Ward Party – One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 40. The Wonderland Banquet – Lights Out in Wonderland

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    A Curious Invitation : The 40 Greatest Parties in Literature was published in October by Picador, I was delighted to receive a copy of this beautifully presented book from Sandra in the Picador Press Office. It really is a joy to look at, the cover is wonderfully illustrated, with touches of gold leaf in amongst the drawings, there are more black and white drawings dotted throughout the book. Suzette Field is a very successful event promoter. the balls and parties that she arranges regularly attra A Curious Invitation : The 40 Greatest Parties in Literature was published in October by Picador, I was delighted to receive a copy of this beautifully presented book from Sandra in the Picador Press Office. It really is a joy to look at, the cover is wonderfully illustrated, with touches of gold leaf in amongst the drawings, there are more black and white drawings dotted throughout the book. Suzette Field is a very successful event promoter. the balls and parties that she arranges regularly attract 3000 guests. She is a real 'party animal', and her love of a good 'do' shine through in the 40 parties that she has selected to feature in her book. Each party has been taken from a work of fiction, although a couple of the included bashes are fictionalised versions of real historical events. And what a varied bunch of parties she has selected, the reader is taken from the world of Plato to Pooh, with each event given as much thought and consideration as the last one. It's not just traditional parties that are featured either, there are garden parties, proms and orgies! Suzette Field has listed the guest lists, the food, the dress, the entertainment and the lasting legacy of each event. A Curious Invitation is a fascinating read, told with humour at times, it is really accessible and will be enjoyed by anyone who loves books and especially those book-lovers who love to party. This the sort of book that you can dip into at any time and find another fascinating party, it's almost like being a constant gatecrasher!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Judith Copek

    This is a wonderful fun-to-read book. The forty parties discussed are a sweep of literature from the Bible to Stephen King. You can be glad you weren't invited to some of these parties--they're a real horror show, such as The Masque of the Red Death, Belshazzer's Feast, The Anubis Orgy, but they'll all such fun to read about, like a snarky society column. Some thing "curious" about "A Curious Invitation" is that there's very little mention of what food was served at many of these parties. The im This is a wonderful fun-to-read book. The forty parties discussed are a sweep of literature from the Bible to Stephen King. You can be glad you weren't invited to some of these parties--they're a real horror show, such as The Masque of the Red Death, Belshazzer's Feast, The Anubis Orgy, but they'll all such fun to read about, like a snarky society column. Some thing "curious" about "A Curious Invitation" is that there's very little mention of what food was served at many of these parties. The importance of drink outweighs details about the food. I've noticed that many, not all, writers are drinkers, not eaters, so this isn't surprising. You don't have to be an English or World Lit. major to delight in this book. You're in some very interesting company all the way from Trimalchio to Joyce and sometimes being a mouse spying from the woodwork is the very best vantage point.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Eh, kind of boring. If you haven’t read the work the party comes from you’re a bit lost for context and if you have then you disagree with the author’s analysis *cough*Mansfield Park*cough* But I read it and now it can go in the library donation bin.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    I received this book through First Reads. I was very intrigued by the concept of this book. A glimpse into some classic literature and the chance to revel with literary party-throwers and goers for 300 pages - who wouldn't like that? The idea was satisfying. The book was somewhat less so. For me, anyway. A Curious Invitation covers forty parties and the descriptions of all of them share the same format. They are all broken down into: The Invitation, The Host, The Venue, The Guest List, The Dress C I received this book through First Reads. I was very intrigued by the concept of this book. A glimpse into some classic literature and the chance to revel with literary party-throwers and goers for 300 pages - who wouldn't like that? The idea was satisfying. The book was somewhat less so. For me, anyway. A Curious Invitation covers forty parties and the descriptions of all of them share the same format. They are all broken down into: The Invitation, The Host, The Venue, The Guest List, The Dress Code, The Food and Drink, The Conversation, The Entertainment, The Outcome, and The Legacy. Despite not being in love with the work as a whole, I thought this was a very good concept in order to have a common thread between the parties. However, the sections of "The Outcome," as I would find, contain huge spoilers for the works in which the parties take place. If you haven't read the book, as I hadn't with a great many of those featured, then you have the book spoiled for you with no warning. I was quite unhappy with this. Fortunately, I learned this trend so I could skip over this section for a few parties as to not have to angrily strike books off of my "to be read" list. The main issue that I had with this book, though, was that the genres were so diverse that, even though the format tried to overcome this, there wasn't a strong enough connection between the parties. You would find yourself jumping from a ancient Grecian party to one thrown in the late nineteenth century. While I realize this isn't the author's fault (these are very different parties thrown in very different times), I think that a little transition could have gone a long way. Field did a great job in the first two sections transitioning Trimalchio into Gatsby, but there was no further effort after this. Maybe if they were arranged by time period it would have been a little easier to digest. I would still recommend this book to lovers of the classics. Maybe they would be more willing to overlook the hiccups that kept me from getting into the book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Birgit

    Being instantly drawn to this book, which features such a quirky title in combination with one of the most gorgeous covers I've seen in a long time, this proved indeed to be quite a unique read. Suzette Field certainly picked an unusual topic in her book A Curious Invitation, presenting an eclectic collection of bookish parties - from Queen Alice's Feast to The Ball at Mansfield Park, straight to The Thomas Ewen High School Prom and Finnegan's Wake! The focus on parties as literary device, and po Being instantly drawn to this book, which features such a quirky title in combination with one of the most gorgeous covers I've seen in a long time, this proved indeed to be quite a unique read. Suzette Field certainly picked an unusual topic in her book A Curious Invitation, presenting an eclectic collection of bookish parties - from Queen Alice's Feast to The Ball at Mansfield Park, straight to The Thomas Ewen High School Prom and Finnegan's Wake! The focus on parties as literary device, and possible inspiration for your own fictional party, sounded fascinating and certainly did not disappoint. Not simply a reiteration of what other authors have written, everything from the location of each party to the dress code, food, and entertainment is being highlighted with refreshingly British humor. Of course some might wonder what use such a book may have, apart from being wonderfully entertaining, and all I can say is, it's not just a marvelous introduction to the broad variety of novels included, even more so it opens a whole new viewpoint from which to dip into these, often classic, stories. Plus, if you should feel so inclined, it will certainly make for interesting party planning too. Of course, being one of London's top party organizers, Ms Field knows her way around parties that are, shall we say, a little different, so why not let her literar(ll)y inspire you to host your own? In short: A delightfully bookish party planner!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bridget

    This book was a lot of fun. Though it is nonfiction and its premise is all about describing 40 parties in history, Suzette Field is just concise enough, provides us with interesting details and chooses only the most interesting parties that captivate our attention and whet our appetites. First of all, the cover of the book is GORGEOUS. The colors, the illustrations, the font, the material/feel of the cover, the layout of information... I could go on. It's beautifully laid out and he information This book was a lot of fun. Though it is nonfiction and its premise is all about describing 40 parties in history, Suzette Field is just concise enough, provides us with interesting details and chooses only the most interesting parties that captivate our attention and whet our appetites. First of all, the cover of the book is GORGEOUS. The colors, the illustrations, the font, the material/feel of the cover, the layout of information... I could go on. It's beautifully laid out and he information is easy to read/follow. Each party follows the same format: Basic information about the party (location, host, date, from what work of literature etc), The Invitation, The Host, The Guest List, The Venue, The Dress Code, The Food and Drink, The Symposium, The Entertainment, The Conversation, The Outcome, and The Legacy. Everything Field provides is relevant and enough for those unfamiliar with said party to understand the gist of it. Overall, this was a fun book to read, not made dull at all by Suzette Field. She provided plenty of interesting tidbits about the books, the authors, and so on. Even in classic literature there are some pretty depraved parties!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tweedledum

    There are parties and parties, some you long to attend and some you definitely do not. Suzette Field serves up a riotous selection of the most famous/infamous parties in literature in this fascinating and occasionally revolting anthology. Thanks to Field's enthusiastic summations I will definitely be crossing certain books off my tbr list, Finnegans Wake among them. But how joyous to be reminded of some old favourites and fascinating to be introduced to the creative inspirations for others. An a There are parties and parties, some you long to attend and some you definitely do not. Suzette Field serves up a riotous selection of the most famous/infamous parties in literature in this fascinating and occasionally revolting anthology. Thanks to Field's enthusiastic summations I will definitely be crossing certain books off my tbr list, Finnegans Wake among them. But how joyous to be reminded of some old favourites and fascinating to be introduced to the creative inspirations for others. An amateur literary buff I thoroughly enjoyed this book but I think that there is much here to inspire the student of literature and emerging authors too. A book to savour, best read in forty doses, perhaps with a copy of the original to hand. But a book to revisit too and keep handy to refer to.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Carr

    My husband knows me well when he purchased me this book and I am excited to say that each party was eye-opening and a fabulous inspiration to me! I have even added several other books mentioned in this one to my "To Read" list thanks to this. Inspiring, entertaining and a party stylists delight! My husband knows me well when he purchased me this book and I am excited to say that each party was eye-opening and a fabulous inspiration to me! I have even added several other books mentioned in this one to my "To Read" list thanks to this. Inspiring, entertaining and a party stylists delight!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    An oddball and very enjoyable form of literary commentary. The author chooses more or less at random party scenes in 40 novels, and explains for each the host or hostess, the nature of the invitation, where the party in the book takes place, the guest list, the food and drink served, the dress code, the entertainment, the outcome of the party, and the legacy of the book. We start with Trimalchio's banquet from The Satyricon, moved on, naturally, to Gatsby's parties, and then on the Bilbo Baggins An oddball and very enjoyable form of literary commentary. The author chooses more or less at random party scenes in 40 novels, and explains for each the host or hostess, the nature of the invitation, where the party in the book takes place, the guest list, the food and drink served, the dress code, the entertainment, the outcome of the party, and the legacy of the book. We start with Trimalchio's banquet from The Satyricon, moved on, naturally, to Gatsby's parties, and then on the Bilbo Baggins birthday, the Masque of the Red Death, Lucky Jim's College Summer Ball, the fancy dress ball at Manderley, and Finnegans Wake, among others. A perfect reading-in-bed book. Each party is discussed in five or six pages, the tone is both accurate and snarky, turns of phrase amusing, and quotations from the books worked in elegantly. Much fun. I will remember the premise, and be happy to return to this for rereading in the future.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alienor

    A playful, joyful romp through history and geography, with some truly decadent descriptions - some of my favorite books feature all out bashes, I realized by finding them in here - and the others I now want to read! This was fun and very inspirational, and offers context and insightful tidbits into books you haven’t managed to open yet (The Brothers Karamazov, I confess😂)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This was an enjoyable read. It was fun reading about the different parties, I learned a few new words (which I always love), and I learned about books I had never heard of before that are now on my TBR list (The Wild Ass's Skin, The Prose Edda). This was an enjoyable read. It was fun reading about the different parties, I learned a few new words (which I always love), and I learned about books I had never heard of before that are now on my TBR list (The Wild Ass's Skin, The Prose Edda).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

    ‘What do Plato, Jane Austen, Dickens, Proust and Jackie Collins have in common?’ asks the blurb of Suzette Field’s book, A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Literature. Very little, you might argue. And you would be wrong according to the author, who believes that their common link is that ‘they all wrote a good party’. Field, one of ‘London’s top party organisers’, has collected together a whole host of ‘famous fictional festivities’. Some of the parties throughout have been lif ‘What do Plato, Jane Austen, Dickens, Proust and Jackie Collins have in common?’ asks the blurb of Suzette Field’s book, A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Literature. Very little, you might argue. And you would be wrong according to the author, who believes that their common link is that ‘they all wrote a good party’. Field, one of ‘London’s top party organisers’, has collected together a whole host of ‘famous fictional festivities’. Some of the parties throughout have been lifted straight from the pages of famous novels from around the world, whilst a few ‘spring from the writer’s bizarre imagination, like Douglas Adams’ flying party above an unknown planet from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. In her introduction, Field sets out the criteria which she tried to stick to whilst writing A Curious Invitation. She states that ‘they had to be parties that are described in works of fiction, rather than the parties given or attended by writers’, all had to be taken exclusively from works of prose rather than poetry or plays, and all needed to be ‘as varied as possible in terms of genre, country, period and style’. She has aimed to create an ‘eclectic collection of balls, fetes, soirees, garden parties, receptions, proms, feasts, bacchanals and orgies’. Thus, A Curious Invitation includes a vast range of sources, from The Great Gatsby and The Brothers Karamazov to Mansfield Park and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. There is an entry from the Bible, another from one of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books, and another from The Fellowship of the Ring. Each party has been set out well and a variety of points pertaining to each festivity has been included in each case. These range from a clear heading which states in which book each party can be found and the author who wrote about it, along with the dress code, guest list, food and drink served, the conversation, the entertainment, ‘the outcome’ of the party and ‘the legacy’ of the author. The venues include a country inn, a German club known as ‘The Onion Cellar’, the house of a marquise, a grand apartment in Moscow which has been commandeered by the devil, and ‘a goddamn Beverly Hills palace’. The locations of these venues are as far-flung as Italy, New York, Japan, Brussells and Pall Mall, and even space and magical lands. The hosts range from ‘bald, fat’ Trimalchio in The Satyricon, who is described as ‘the perfect vulgarian host’, to a young French boy named Frantz ‘who is a student or a sailor or perhaps a midshipman cadet, no one knew for sure’. With regard to the invitations, in The Great Gatsby ‘people were not invited – they went there’; in Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, ‘the guests invite each other to the party and the hostess herself is the last to find out about it’; and in The Fellowship of the Ring, Biblo’s invitations are all penned in gold ink which ‘would have been the ultimate status symbol among the local hobbitry, if it weren’t for the fact that just about everyone who lived in the area had been sent one’. A Curious Invitation is well written and well considered, but one cannot help feeling that it would come across in a more positive manner had the author not used part of her introduction as a self-publication exercise. Despite this, it is fun, quirky and different and is sure to make a great gift for anyone who enjoys entertaining. A useful bibliography sets out every considered source, and the commentary which runs throughout has been written in a likeable and informative manner.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    This was a cleverly conceived, entertainingly-written examination of the "forty greatest parties in literature". I found it huge fun and enjoyed it a lot. Of the forty books covered, I've read [or attempted to read, in the case of the Brothers Karamazov] twelve. Another handful, I've heard of, but never read. The remainder were books I`ve never even heard of, so it was a bit of education in addition to a fun read. The author, who is apparently one of the best party-planners in the UK, not only und This was a cleverly conceived, entertainingly-written examination of the "forty greatest parties in literature". I found it huge fun and enjoyed it a lot. Of the forty books covered, I've read [or attempted to read, in the case of the Brothers Karamazov] twelve. Another handful, I've heard of, but never read. The remainder were books I`ve never even heard of, so it was a bit of education in addition to a fun read. The author, who is apparently one of the best party-planners in the UK, not only understands what makes a good party, and has done some serious reading and research to get the 411 on the parties from the listed books. She also has - in typical British style! - a smart, witty, and slightly off-centre sense of humour, which she wields to excellent effect in telling us about the invitations, venues, guest lists, dress codes, entertainment, food and drink, outcomes, and legacies, of each party. The books are a fascinating and diverse group, from Gatsby`s parties to Queen Alice`s Feast, Poe`s Masque of the Red Death to the Book of Daniel from the Bible, Bilbo`s birthday party to the prom from Carrie, and McMurphy`s Ward Party from Cuckoo`s Nest to The Flying Party from Douglas Adams. And many, many more! I even found three new books I want to read in full, from reading about the parties that are part of them This is a fun, fast easy read, and I suspect that, much like the trailers from many movies, we get the best, most entertaining bits of some of these books in reading Fields`descriptions of the parties that featured in them. If you like to entertain, or if you love a good party, and are looking for a light read that will provide a fun way to spend a few evenings without having to dress up and go out, this is the book for you!

  17. 5 out of 5

    sminismoni

    I couldn't quite see what the point of this book was. The author has read a bunch of books and then described the parties described in those books. To do this, much of the time she simply quotes large sections of the original work. There is no independent analysis or original thought, and even the section at the end of each chapter called "Legacy" (in which she describes the impact of the book, or something about the life of the author), seems to have been lifted largely from Wikipedia. The only I couldn't quite see what the point of this book was. The author has read a bunch of books and then described the parties described in those books. To do this, much of the time she simply quotes large sections of the original work. There is no independent analysis or original thought, and even the section at the end of each chapter called "Legacy" (in which she describes the impact of the book, or something about the life of the author), seems to have been lifted largely from Wikipedia. The only reason I gave this book 2 stars was because it inspired me to add some more titles to my "To Read" list. Otherwise I'm sorry I wasted my time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    Who doesn't love a good party? Clever concept, though admittedly, this was a skim for me. The author has compiled and annotated 40 different parties in literature from The book of Daniel in the Bible to Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce to Alice's Feast in Through the Looking Glass to the Chief of Police's Reception by Nicolai Golgol. It is an impressive collection that spans many ages and literary traditions, but what is more impressive is the author's thorough knowledge, not only of the work itse Who doesn't love a good party? Clever concept, though admittedly, this was a skim for me. The author has compiled and annotated 40 different parties in literature from The book of Daniel in the Bible to Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce to Alice's Feast in Through the Looking Glass to the Chief of Police's Reception by Nicolai Golgol. It is an impressive collection that spans many ages and literary traditions, but what is more impressive is the author's thorough knowledge, not only of the work itself, but also some of the cultural traditions, the time period and the author's other works. Clearly this was extensively researched. Field also has a very droll commentary -- she has broken each one down to include the invitation, the guest list, the venue, the food/drinks served, the entertainment etc. as they apply, and she manages to make it very amusing from a by-stander's perspective. I read maybe a dozen-plus from the books I was familiar with (Gatsby, Mansfield Park, Bilbo Baggins Eleventy-First Birthday Party, Masque of the Red Death, the Prom from Stephen King's Carrie, and others). It was fun to delve into just that one scene from the story, since sometimes it was central and sometimes it wasn't, and it makes me want to read the books I haven't. This is more a perusal than a cover-to-cover cram.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Scribd

    There’s something perennially fascinating for me about a bringing a group of people together in a single shared space and watching all the ways in which they interact (or don’t). When reflecting on the beauty & horror of social settings, I often return to the masterful renditions of people confined together in claustrophobic spaces written by Henry Green (who is notably missing from this collection); but Suzette Field has given me a wealth of new scenes to consider. She covers party hosts rangin There’s something perennially fascinating for me about a bringing a group of people together in a single shared space and watching all the ways in which they interact (or don’t). When reflecting on the beauty & horror of social settings, I often return to the masterful renditions of people confined together in claustrophobic spaces written by Henry Green (who is notably missing from this collection); but Suzette Field has given me a wealth of new scenes to consider. She covers party hosts ranging from Christopher Robin to the last king of Babylon, with a methodical approach and detached tone that feels downright cathartic in the wake of holiday party season. Some of the soirees she chose I am familiar with — The Strange Fête in Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes, Lady Metroland’s Party in Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, and, of course, the Saturday Night Parties thrown by Mr. Gatsby—but most are new to me, making the net result of this #FridayRead an even longer reading list.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    In A Curious Invitation Suzette Field has gone through and picked out 40 party scenes from 40 different books. Each chapter outlines: The Invitation, The Host, The Venue, The Guest List, The Dress Code, The Food and Drink, The Conversation, The Entertainment, The Outcome, and The Legacy of each party. Field says in the introduction that she tried to pick a variety of parties, but I think she fell short in that attempt. Most of the parties take place in 19th century England, and they all kind of b In A Curious Invitation Suzette Field has gone through and picked out 40 party scenes from 40 different books. Each chapter outlines: The Invitation, The Host, The Venue, The Guest List, The Dress Code, The Food and Drink, The Conversation, The Entertainment, The Outcome, and The Legacy of each party. Field says in the introduction that she tried to pick a variety of parties, but I think she fell short in that attempt. Most of the parties take place in 19th century England, and they all kind of blend into one another. The most interesting ones step outside that mold - the moon viewing party of The Tale of Genji, Socrates getting drunk, the writing on the wall of Book of Kings, Gatsby's weekend parties, etc. Another thing, the book ends on a downer note with a post-modernist book with a party featuring all the bankers who caused the 2008 meltdown partying it up.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    This was an enjoyable read. The author is a professional event planner in London, and has hosted several literary-themed parties. I enjoyed her take on many of the parties I've "attended" (Gatsby's parties, Bilbo Baggins' eleventy-first birthday, the masque of the red death, the Pooh party, and more), and I jotted down a few titles to read based on her description of the parties (Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca, the Satyricon, The Tin Drum). I would love the read the author's take on a few of my favo This was an enjoyable read. The author is a professional event planner in London, and has hosted several literary-themed parties. I enjoyed her take on many of the parties I've "attended" (Gatsby's parties, Bilbo Baggins' eleventy-first birthday, the masque of the red death, the Pooh party, and more), and I jotted down a few titles to read based on her description of the parties (Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca, the Satyricon, The Tin Drum). I would love the read the author's take on a few of my favourite literary parties that were missing from this book: the ball at Netherfield (Pride & Prejudice), Bridget Jones' birthday party, and Nearly Headless Nick's Deathday party (Harry Potter).

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Cassidy

    After letting this book languish on my bedside table for almost a year, I finally have to admit that I am unlikely to finish it. I just lost interest about two thirds of the way through. My brother gave it to me as a birthday gift, and I often rely on him to get me something I wouldn't otherwise read...this definitely checked that box. And the physical book is really beautiful, which may be why it has stayed near my bed! It is well-written, but the one disappointment I had was that it didn't com After letting this book languish on my bedside table for almost a year, I finally have to admit that I am unlikely to finish it. I just lost interest about two thirds of the way through. My brother gave it to me as a birthday gift, and I often rely on him to get me something I wouldn't otherwise read...this definitely checked that box. And the physical book is really beautiful, which may be why it has stayed near my bed! It is well-written, but the one disappointment I had was that it didn't compel me to read the books that the parties were featured in. I will keep it, and maybe try another chapter in the future, but I am giving up for now.

  23. 4 out of 5

    RumBelle

    I will say going in, I did not read about every party in this book, because many of the books they were taken from did not interest me. That being said, based on the parties I did choose to read about, this was a highly enjoyable, very well written book. Each party was a chapter and each chapter was broken up into the essential elements of a party, what the guests wore, what they ate, what they talked about etc. The writing style was very witty, and at times comedic. You learned a lot about not I will say going in, I did not read about every party in this book, because many of the books they were taken from did not interest me. That being said, based on the parties I did choose to read about, this was a highly enjoyable, very well written book. Each party was a chapter and each chapter was broken up into the essential elements of a party, what the guests wore, what they ate, what they talked about etc. The writing style was very witty, and at times comedic. You learned a lot about not only the characters, settings and plots from the books, but also about the historical time which created them. Wonderful.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jamy

    It's a good book but seems disjointed at times. The format is cool and inventive, putting each party through 11 subjects: "The Invitation", "The Host", "The Venue", etc. It's ingenious as it puts each party, no matter what time or setting, on the same level. It enables one to compare and contrast parties from across literary ages. The only drawback is that some of the parties lack enough concrete information or social to fill out the inventive format (Trimalchio's Dinner Party and A Pooh Party co It's a good book but seems disjointed at times. The format is cool and inventive, putting each party through 11 subjects: "The Invitation", "The Host", "The Venue", etc. It's ingenious as it puts each party, no matter what time or setting, on the same level. It enables one to compare and contrast parties from across literary ages. The only drawback is that some of the parties lack enough concrete information or social to fill out the inventive format (Trimalchio's Dinner Party and A Pooh Party comes to mind). There would have been some parties better served by Ms. Fields ingenuity, me thinks. Bonfire of the Vanities, Less Than Zero, Mrs. Dalloway? Just This Man's Opinion, Jamy :D

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dickon Edwards

    Eclectic look at the depiction of parties, soirees, banquets and balls across the whole history of literature, examining every dress code, menu, guest list and conversation. Possibly the first book to compare Joyce's Finnegan's Wake with Jackie Collins's Hollywood Wives (!)Has persuaded me to finally get around to certain books... Here's a list of all 40 of the novels: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/25... Eclectic look at the depiction of parties, soirees, banquets and balls across the whole history of literature, examining every dress code, menu, guest list and conversation. Possibly the first book to compare Joyce's Finnegan's Wake with Jackie Collins's Hollywood Wives (!)Has persuaded me to finally get around to certain books... Here's a list of all 40 of the novels: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/25...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I'm not entirely sure what the point of this book was. Yes, it is an overview of books that include parties, but that's as far as it goes. Perhaps if it had been done as a cookbook with a recipe for each party? Or instructions for holding a dinner party or event based on each of the included scenes? But it doesn't do anything like that. This just gives a list and a description of the books that include the parties; there isn't even any critical narrative included. Why is this book? I'm not entirely sure what the point of this book was. Yes, it is an overview of books that include parties, but that's as far as it goes. Perhaps if it had been done as a cookbook with a recipe for each party? Or instructions for holding a dinner party or event based on each of the included scenes? But it doesn't do anything like that. This just gives a list and a description of the books that include the parties; there isn't even any critical narrative included. Why is this book?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joy

    This is an entertaining exploration of parties in literature. The selections are diverse, from the fun and silly to the truly bizarre and terrible. Some parties were well-known and others were completely new to me. I especially enjoyed revisiting "Dick Hawk-Monitor’s 21st Birthday Party" and "A Pooh Party." This is an entertaining exploration of parties in literature. The selections are diverse, from the fun and silly to the truly bizarre and terrible. Some parties were well-known and others were completely new to me. I especially enjoyed revisiting "Dick Hawk-Monitor’s 21st Birthday Party" and "A Pooh Party."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Mcbroom

    Party Promoter Suzette Field chooses works in literature and promotes their imaginary parties with an official invitation, dress code, food and drink and conversation. Some works she spotlights are Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (the Gatsby party I would have loved to attend)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Clare

    Why is it gift books that always end up perpetuating the more insidious kinds of prejudice? A Curious Invitation is a fun romp through literary parties, but its vein of unexamined cruelty spells out exactly who is in and who is out. So don’t expect an invitation if you’re a literary critic, a particle physicist, a spinster, or struggling with depression.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dianne Landry

    I found it to be a disappointment. Although I did finish the book by the time I got half way through I felt like I was going to the same party in a different location. Most of them seemed to take place in the same time period and had nothing to draw me in. I can honestly say that were I be invited to any of these parties I would decline saying "I have to wash my hair" YAWN! I found it to be a disappointment. Although I did finish the book by the time I got half way through I felt like I was going to the same party in a different location. Most of them seemed to take place in the same time period and had nothing to draw me in. I can honestly say that were I be invited to any of these parties I would decline saying "I have to wash my hair" YAWN!

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