The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess
Published by Henry Holt & Co. on July 9, 2019 (expected)
Genre(s): fiction, historical fiction
Format & Length: e-book, 256
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A propulsive tale of ambition and romance, set in the publishing world of 1980’s New York and the timeless beaches of Cape Cod.
In the summer of 1987, 25-year-old Eve Rosen is an aspiring writer languishing in a low-level assistant job, unable to shake the shadow of growing up with her brilliant brother. With her professional ambitions floundering, Eve jumps at the chance to attend an early summer gathering at the Cape Cod home of famed New Yorker writer Henry Grey and his poet wife, Tillie. Dazzled by the guests and her burgeoning crush on the hosts’ artistic son, Eve lands a new job as Henry Grey’s research assistant and an invitation to Henry and Tillie’s exclusive and famed “Book Party”— where attendees dress as literary characters. But by the night of the party, Eve discovers uncomfortable truths about her summer entanglements and understands that the literary world she so desperately wanted to be a part of is not at all what it seems.
A page-turning, coming-of-age story, written with a lyrical sense of place and a profound appreciation for the sustaining power of books, The Last Book Party shows what happens when youth and experience collide and what it takes to find your own voice.
The Last Book Party is a charming coming of age story that feels both timeless and nostalgic.
“Everyone seemed so confident. It was like they were preparing to become the ‘voices of their generation’ and I was struggling to clear my throat.”
Told through Eve’s perspective, the reader is drawn in as she attends the party of an acclaimed writer and introduced to a new world she wasn’t previously privy to. Eve is in her mid-twenties, working a job she doesn’t particularly love, and aspiring to be a writer but never actually writing anymore. As she struggles to figure out her identity and path in life, becoming accepted in this new world gives her a sense of purpose that she hasn’t felt in a while. While I didn’t necessarily agree with all the choices she made, I could certainly understand her reasons for said choices and found her to be an overall empathetic and relatable character.
Set in the publishing world of the 1980’s between New York City and Cape Cod, The Last Book Party has a solid sense of place. Plenty of references from the time period are tossed casually throughout, from mentions of a Walkman to a Rolodex and popular music, that reminded me of my own childhood and added authenticity to the story. At the same time, the writing style is current and flows effortlessly, making it feel lighthearted even through some of the issues that Eve goes through along her journey. I didn’t read this at a fast pace with an urgent need to know what happens next, but it did hold my attention completely and stayed in my mind even when I had to put it down.
“You need to stop the magical thinking. You have to just push through, even when it’s not easy.”
Overall, I’m thoroughly impressed with The Last Book Party. Dukess clearly has writing chops; this may have been her debut novel but it certainly didn’t read like one. I can see this becoming one of the hot beach reads this year. Fans of books about books and coming of age stories are sure to enjoy this.
*Thanks to the publisher for providing an arc of this edition via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.