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2011 Recommended books

The Afterparty by Leo Benedictus

The Afterparty

I received a copy of The Afterparty from its publishers, Jonathan Cape, but as I have little interest in celebrity culture or the newspaper industry, the blurb held little appeal. I then saw a glowing review from Kim, and although our taste in books usually matches I assumed that her career in publishing accounted for her love of this book. A few weeks later intriguing debates started to crop up all over the place and I decided that I’d have to give this book a try. I fully expected to hate it, but I was wrong. I was quickly drawn in to it’s clever narrative and this book has become one of my favourites of 2011.

The Afterparty follows a struggling journalist who is asked to attend a celebrity party. His job is to get as much gossip as possible in order to write a column, but he doesn’t find integrating with the other party guests easy. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so I’ll reveal no more about the plot other than to say that are affairs, a death and all the bitchiness you’d expect to find in this cut-throat world – it is a gripping read with numerous twists and turns.

It also has an original structure – the main narrative is interspersed with email correspondence between the “author” and his “agent”. This allows the reader to see changes in the book’s construction as it is written, adding an unusually entertaining depth to the story.

One of the things that impressed me most was the use of real “celebrities”. I often find books frustrating because the characters are based on real people, but I can’t quite work out which ones. This didn’t have the same problem as numerous real celebrities appear and actually interact with each other. I wondered how the author could get away with the (often controversial) conversations these people had, but the Vintage podcast revealed that all the conversations were taken from transcripts of things they’d actually said and so (fingers crossed) he can’t get into trouble for it.

The Afterparty is extremely timely and (after the recent phone hacking scandal) I was amused to find that Rebekah Wade makes an appearance. The book ends by giving a thought provoking insight into celebrity culture and achieved the almost impossible task of making me feel a little bit sorry for them and their non-stop glittery life.

The Afterparty is like nothing I’ve ever read before, but if I have to draw comparisons then it would be with another of my favourite books of the year, The Nobodies Album. Both are original, of the moment, and cover both celebrity culture and novel writing.

This book will divide opinion, but the great thing is that it will get everyone talking. I highly recommend that you give it a try, if only so that you can join in the debate.

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15 replies on “The Afterparty by Leo Benedictus”

kimbofo, Thanks for letting me know how good it is. I’m so pleased that I decided to give it a try. I hope that lots of other people decide to give it a try too.

this reminds me a bit of a modern remake of vile bodies by waugh ,suppose with current news ,it is a book to read to get an insight into the modern world of gossip ,all the best stu

I’m intrigued and have added it to the wishlist. He did have courage in using real people, Rebekah Wade especially. I haven’t been as interested in a piece of news as with the NoWgate. It’s fascinating stuff, even if just the tip of the iceberg. Looking forward to seeing what happens.

Alex, If you are fascinated with the hacking scandal then I think you’ll enjoy this insight into the industry. I look forward to seeing what you make of it.

Brena, It will be one of my top 5 reads of the year, so it is one I’ll be pushing into the hands of my friends. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Judith, The emails had the potential to take you out of the story and I guess that the first few did that slightly (but they added to the tension building in the plot) By the end of the book they felt very natural and I was just as interested in the email conversations as the plot. I think that just shows his skill as a writer.

Aths, I worry that the celebrities might be too UK based for this book to be appreciated by people from other countries, but even without knowing the celebrities I think there is a lot to like. I hope you decide to read it.

I somehow missed this review until now, and I wonder if I’d know of the UK celebrities and whether it’d make a difference in enjoying this book (I know of some, since I used to live in Australia, e.g. Jemima Khan – someone Americans prob don’t know of. But then, I hardly know of the American celebrities either lol). I have to add this to my TBR list just because it is different!

I was a bit disappointed to not see this one make the list because I hoped a Booker nod would make a U.S. publication more likely! As a reformed journalist, I’m always drawn to novels about journalists. I hope this one does make its way over here eventually!

[…] The Afterparty by Leo Benedictus is the cleverest example I’ve come across. The book begins with an email to a literary agent enclosing the first chapter of a yet to be published novel. Through a series of email conversations the reader gets an insight into the publishing industry, the thrill of reading an exposé of celebrity culture and an incredibly intelligent subplot revolving around who the author really is. This is metafiction at its best and I’m sad it failed to be highlighted by any of the major awards this year. […]

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