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Publisher's Summary

A rehearsal dinner brings together two disparate families in this sparkling, witty novel.

“This vital novel offers delicious echoes of Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster, and a touch of A Midsummer Night’s Dream - but its magic is unique. The Garden Party is beautiful and full of life.” (Claire Messud, author of The Burning Girl and The Woman Upstairs)

The Cohens are wildly impractical intellectuals - academics, activists, and artists. The Barlows are Wall Street Journal-reading lawyers steeped in trusts and copyrights, golf and tennis. The two families are reserved with and wary of each other, but tonight, the evening before the wedding that is supposed to unite them in marriage, they will attempt to set aside their differences over dinner in the garden. 

As Celia Cohen, the eminent literary critic, sets the table, her husband, Pindar, would much rather be translating ancient recipes for his Babylonian cookbook than hosting this rehearsal dinner. Meanwhile, their son, Adam, the poet (and nervous groom), wonders if there is still time to simply elope. One of Adam’s sisters, Naomi, a passionate but fragile social activist, refuses to leave her room, while Sara, scorpion biologist turned folklore writer, sits up on the roof mourning an imminent breakup. And Pindar’s elderly mother, Leah, witnesses everything, weaving old memories into the present. 

The lawyers are early: patriarch Stephen Barlow and his bespangled wife, Philippa, who specializes in estates, along with Philippa’s father, Nathan, hobbled by age and Lyme disease. Then come the Barlow sons William (war crimes), Cameron (intellectual property), and Barnes (the prosecutor), each with desperate wife and precocious offspring. How could their younger siblings - Eliza, the bride, an aspiring veterinarian, and her twin brother, Harry, recently expelled from divinity school - have issued from such a family? 

Up and down the dinner table, with its 24 (or is it 25?) guests, unions are forming and dissolving while Pindar is trying to figure out whether time is really shaped like baklava, and off in the surrounding forest with its ancient pond different sorts of mischief will lead to a complicated series of fiascoes and miracles before the party is over. Set over the course of a single day and night, Grace Dane Mazur’s brilliantly observed novel weaves an irresistible portrayal of miscommunication, secrets, and the power of love.

©2018 Grace Dane Mazur (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Beautifully written and bracingly intelligent.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“This shimmering novel stands apart from those with similar themes owing to the mercurial feeling conjured by the author’s elegant prose, as if the Cohens’ garden has an enchantment all its own.” (Library Journal)

“The descriptions of the garden are lush, and [Grace Dane] Mazur does a fine job of evoking a summer evening as well as juggling her many characters. Give this to readers who enjoy a comedy of manners.” (Booklist)

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Nonsensical stream of consciousness

This book had so much potential, but in the end I couldn’t even finish it. I have never not finished a book. Usually, I love long, poetical descriptions of beautiful scenes. I enjoy backstory that gives context to the minor characters. I am even an academic and can relate to the well-described little quirks of scholars who spend too much time away from the “real world.” But there needs to be a plot! Instead, the story just meanders between (albeit beautifully written) different streams of consciousness, with no way to connect it to what little plot there is, and no way to relate one character to another. Perhaps that was the point and they all will converge at the end of the book, but I stopped with about 2 hours left (about 75% of the way through) because I couldn’t take it anymore. That’s what I get for taking summer reading recs from a tabloid magazine....

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disappointing and convoluted ending

I kept waiting for more story at the end. I was frustrated and disappointed with it.