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Lydia's Party: A Novel Paperback – January 27, 2015


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 27, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143126113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143126119
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Lydia, an art teacher at a “godforsaken suburban community college,” is preparing for her annual, women-only dispel-the-­midwinter-blues party and worrying about how to break her bad news to her friends. They’re quite the group. Lydia believes that ruthlessly ambitious Norris, an internationally successful artist, is in a serious rut. Librarian Celia is finding life with her husband and son claustrophobic. Elaine has a Hillary fixation, and Maura is at loose ends after the death of her married lover. Hawkins’ third smart, crackling novel (after A Year of Cats and Dogs, 2009, and How to Survive a Natural Disaster, 2010) is a snowy, midwestern Mrs. Dalloway, with Elizabeth Berg-ish charm and Hawkins’ own edgy, artfully particularized humor. Standout moments include Lydia introducing her students to Ivan Albright’s unnerving paintings of “female beauty gone to ruin” and her contrasting of her perfect nieces, “Amazons of privilege,” with the struggling single mothers and veterans in her classes. As Lydia and her circle pull together in her time of need, Hawkins considers the profound gift of friendship and the ways art and life converge to forge meaning and preserve truth and memories. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

Praise for Lydia's Party by Margaret Hawkins:

“Captivating . . . There is much to enjoy in Hawkins’s incisive observations . . . You’ll like these women, . . . [and] the story keeps you reading as it examines the gap between how we think we build our destinies . . . and how we actually build them.”
—0, The Oprah Magazine

“A tender and clear-eyed look at the tangles in women’s lives.”
Good Housekeeping (A New Book Pick)

“This book feels like what lifelong friendships really are.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune  (Also Picked as “A Fave of the Moment”)

“With shades of Mrs. Dalloway, much of the novel takes place in a day, as Lydia prepares for her annual winter party. . . . Hawkins’s novel is beautiful . . . and the plot takes a number of unexpected, hugely enjoyable turns. It is this kind of book: the kind one buys extra copies of to pass out to friends.”
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“Impossible to put down. The characters are quirky, endearing, and relatable. . . . Lydia’s unrelenting examination of her own life forces the readers to reflect on their own choices and passions—and that is what makes this book a must-read.”
—DolceDolce.com

“Plot is one of the great strengths of the book, beyond the expert characterization of these women. The story takes several entirely unpredictable and yet satisfying turns. . . . [A] lovely life-affirming tale, making this meditation on mortality and friendship a pure delight for readers.”
—Bookreporter.com

“Hawkins’s smart, crackling novel is a snowy, midwestern Mrs. Dalloway, with Elizabeth Berg-ish charm and Hawkins’s own edgy, artfully particularized humor. . . . As Lydia and her circle pull together in her time of need, Hawkins considers the profound gift of friendship and the ways art and life converge to forge meaning and preserve truth and memories.”
Booklist

“Sumptuous . . . a repast that’s alternately uncomfortable and soothing, weepy and jubilant, evocative and realistic. Party host and art teacher Lydia is having her annual dinner for her women friends. . . . In a quirky, impossibly magical and sweetly charming twist, Lydia helps guide them all to forgiveness.”  
Publishers Weekly

“Hawkins’s protagonists are well drawn and interesting.”
Library Journal

 “Like Carol Shields’s Larry’s Party, a completely winning book about friendship, an elusive and almost never written about subject, which makes this a rare achievement.”
Diane Johnson, author of Le Divorce and Flyover Lives
 
Lydia’s Party is a brilliant story, so perfectly told, the characters instantly recognizable and unforgettable, that they take up residence in one’s heart. It is destined to be a classic for this generation.”
Jo-Ann Mapson, author of Solomon’s Oak, Finding Casey, and the forthcoming Owen's Daughter
 
Lydia’s Party is a literary celebration of dark secrets, enduring friendship, and the slow crawl of regret. A luminous reflection that will linger long after the last page, Margaret Hawkins’s latest novel will make you examine what and whom you hold most dear while you savor each perfect sentence.”
Sally Koslow, author of The Widow Waltz
 
“With wit and insight Margaret Hawkins gives us a sharp, soulful look at love and regret, women’s friendship, art, aging, and ambition, and what it means to live a life. At once funny and moving, Lydia’s Party is a pure delight.”
Rilla Askew, author of Fire in Beulah

“Hawkins’ third novel is a beautiful evocation of a death at midlife—at once elegant, melancholy and wise.

With shades of Mrs. Dalloway, much of the novel takes place in a day, as Lydia prepares for her annual winter party. The same group of women has been coming for years (except Norris, who makes barely plausible excuses), and Lydia worries over the usual: the food, the wine, the weather. But this will be her last party; she’s just been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and has but a few weeks to live. She struggles over a letter she plans to give each friend after dinner; a letter she writes and edits and is dissatisfied with because how can you explain all the disappointments of a lifetime in an uplifting farewell? She teaches art at a community college in the suburbs of Chicago, but really she wanted Norris’ life. Years ago, Lydia and Norris were colleagues, but thanks to Lydia’s mentorship (and, admittedly, Norris’ own icy determination), Norris has become a world-renowned painter while Lydia gave up long ago. And Lydia had men, too many of the wrong kind. And she had fears of making the wrong choices and so made too few important ones. And now she knows it is too late for anything; there is no more time to be the person she imagined. As she prepares for the party, her guests get ready as well: Elaine is bitter and alone and spreads acrimony like ruined pixie dust; still beautiful Maura loses herself in reveries of Roy, the married man she devoted her life to for a once-a-week “date”; Celia is married with a teenage son but is perpetually surprised that family life is so tedious. And then there is Norris, whom everybody hates but Lydia, and even Lydia hates her a little bit, too. Hawkins smartly continues the novel after the party, after Lydia’s death, after Norris begins a grand portrait series of the women, and the plot takes a number of unexpected, hugely enjoyable turns.

It is this kind of book: the kind one buys extra copies of to pass out to friends.”
—Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

A very slow reading book....It was written well,just a slow story......I don't think I would read anything by this author again.
Marion Chadwick
A long rambling of regret, I was left feeling depressed by the characters and disappointed in the execution of an overdone storyline.
chanda ekker
Maybe the book needed to be somewhat longer so some of what I perceived as unfinished business/issues could have been addressed.
raylinjen
This item has not been released yet and is not eligible to be reviewed. Reviews shown are from other formats of this item.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Lydia's Party is the first book I've read by Margaret Hawkins. I was intrigued by the reviews I'd read about it but ultimately, was disappointed by the book itself. It just didn't live up to its hype.

Lydia is 54 years old when the book opens. She is a tenured professor at a suburban community college in the Chicago area currently on medical leave for an unrevealed reason. She is planning a party, one that has been an annual event for the past 13 years. This party is only for women, and only for her closest of friends. The book's first parts focus on the day of the party - on Lydia's preparation for the event and the feelings of the women who will be in attendance.

Lydia met all her friends twenty years ago when she first started teaching. Originally Lydia had hoped that her teaching would support her art career as a painter but her art career went to the wayside and teaching became her primary activity. She regrets this. In fact, she has many regrets.

Her friends include Betsy, a clinical social worker who is married to bi-sexual Ted, who sneaks around with men. He was fired from his job as a music teacher for some unknown reason. Maura was a student of Lydia's who spent twenty years having an affair with a married man who spent all his holidays with his wife and family until he died. Elaine is an angry woman, a breast cancer survivor who now is grieving her mother and dog's death and eating her way to oblivion. Jayne is an attorney, once an art historian, who lives on Lake Shore Drive and looks down on those who are not as rich as she is. Celia is fifty and once planned to become a full-time artist. Instead she married and attended library school.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on January 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It's the day of Lydia's big winter party for her closest female friends. The tradition was started 19 years ago, and it's usually a highlight for Lydia --- a warm spot in frigid January, filled with feasting and confessing. This year, however, Lydia is having a challenging time even preparing for the gathering. She has missed giving the party a few times over the years, and now cannot help reflecting that this is her 13th Bleak Midwinter Bash. It feels like an unlucky number.

As Lydia stands before the mirror, trying to decide what she should wear, she meditates on aging. The years have caught up to her, sharply accelerated recently. These physical changes have caught her by surprise since somehow she had once believed she was immune to "this precipitous downward slide."

Lydia is also remembering that, not so long ago, she had been contemplating how she should spend the final third of her life. She had been saving money for the goal of a comfortable old age. Now, however, thanks to the news that she has end-stage pancreatic cancer, she's been spending her money like crazy.

She has yet to tell her friends about her diagnosis but plans to make an announcement at the party. Figuring out how to go about telling them is emotionally draining, on top of her pervasive physical weakness. She also wants to write each friend a letter, telling her what her friendship has meant in her life, but this will entail the summoning of yet more emotional and physical energy.

As the day of the party progresses, we meet each of Lydia's friends. There's Norris, the famous artist. Lydia and Norris have been friends for a very long time, but their shared history is complicated by envy and betrayal. Lydia is not even sure that Norris will attend the party.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By chanda ekker on February 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I love books with several characters' individual stories interwoven into a cohesive whole, especially when they focus on a group of women. I eagerly anticipated enjoying Lydia's Party because it seemed to promise a variety of diverse characters coming together, just they way I like it. Unfortunately it misses the mark on almost every level. The characters are skin deep at best and I wasn't able to discern any real plot line. I'm still not sure what the premise of the novel was supposed to be. A long rambling of regret, I was left feeling depressed by the characters and disappointed in the execution of an overdone storyline.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By the GreatReads! TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Lydia's Party by Margaret Hawkins is a nostalgic novel about friendship. It is the story of Lydia who is preparing to throw her annual Bleak Midwinter party during which she plans to make a surprise statement to her friends who would be attending it. As the story is told from different points of views, it is at times interesting. Margaret would have done a better job if the details had been minimized. While some may enjoy the book, many are likely to find it boring. Perhaps, middle-aged women may be soaked in by the book.

However, the premise of the book is an interesting one as it deals with friendship, jealousy and female competitiveness. The author’s background work is commendable.The characters are fully developed, and they are honestly brutal about their lives which is a refreshing. If you want a book that explores the bonds of friendship, Lydia's Party might be a good book to begin with.
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