Q and A with author Daniella Bernett
Novel set in Truro (Cape Cod) in the later 1980s
9th July 2019
The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess, novel set in Truro (Cape Cod) in the later 1980s.
The first thing I have to confess is that I didn’t know that there was a Truro in Cape Cod! My goodness, how can I have not known about this rather idyllic spot? My point of reference, of course, has always been Truro in Cornwall.
To a British eye, the setting for this novel is very like “The Affair” – having seen the hit TV series I can so conjure up the coastal images that the author evokes in the book! It does indeed have, as the cover of my copy says: “…a lyrical sense of place..”
Eve (25 years old) is toiling away, reasonably happily it seems, as a lowly employee at Hodder, Strike, a publisher in New York. She aspires to be a writer but at present the drive to put real pen to paper eludes her.
Through her publishing connections she, however, does meet some interesting people along the way. Take The New Yorker contributor Henry Grey who dangles the prospect of a summer personal assistant’s job in front of her – which she accepts when she is passed over for promotion at Hodder, Strike. Grey and his wife / poet Tillie run their household out in Truro (where incidentally her parents live), which is artsy and bohemian and is a stark contrast to her more formal family home. That in itself is of course a quite a draw!
Then there is Franny, son of the Greys; and rising-star-writer “fresh and original” “bold and beautiful” Jeremy Grand. They all populate her world and intermingle as she starts to explore her place in society (that can also be interpreted as her coming-of-age period). Yes, she starts to spread her sexual wings and engage in a world of subterfuge which inevitably all comes to a head at the eponymous Book Party of the title, hosted every summer by the Greys. Gosh there is some rather egregious behaviour going on all round!
The author clearly knows the book and journalism world very well and delightfully revels in bibliophilia. I really enjoyed reading this novel – the slight weakness for me was the emotional and psychological under development as Eve moves into her various relationships. I felt I wanted to understand a little more about her drives. However, the strength of the setting, the portrayed vagaries of the publishing world and the acuity of general observation more than balanced the narrative to make this an extremely readable novel – and in particular a book for bookworms! Recommended.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
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