"After the Party", by British author Cressida Connolly, is extremely difficult to rate and review. I had to force myself to read the first half or so, but found it picked up in the last half. The book is written in two voices; one in the third person by a somewhat unreliable narrator in 1938, and the second in the first person by Phyllis Forrester in 1979. We find out in the beginning that Forrester has spent time in prison - but for what crime is not made clear til much later in the book.
Phyllis Forrester, her husband, and three children have just returned to England from foreign business postings in 1938. Seeking to find a base in the country, they move to Sussex where Phyllis's two sisters live with their husbands. Phyllis is a bit at loose ends; her children are going off to school and her husband is supervising the building of a new house for the family. Both, though, become involved with the BU - "British Union" - the Oswald Moseley fascist organisation that her sisters and their husbands are already extremely active in. This time - pre-war - is prime for anti-war fervor in Britain, with Moselely's group advocating not getting involved in any future wars with Germany. As war begins in 1939, the BU and it's members are increasingly seen as possible domestic provocateurs.
But how active are Phyllis and her husband in the organisation? Not extremely so, unlike her sisters. Phyllis's main activities upon her resettlement in England seems to be generally drifting through life, making new friends and trying to navigate a difficult family situation. And that's why the first half of the book is so confounding - it bears little relationship to the second. If I was bored by the first part of the book, I'll say I was fascinated by the second. But how many readers will stick it out?
If you're thinking about buying "After the Party", I'd read as many reviews as I can. I'm giving the book three stars because I can't really recommend it...but then I really can't NOT recommend it! Other reviewers may be able to explain the conundrum of the book better than I can.