My Rating: 5/5
Well it has been 11 long years since Lisa Jewell released a book entitled Ralph's Party. She wrote and I read Ralphs party (unbelievably) 11 years ago and even back then her writing was great.
In Ralph's Party we meet the residents of 31 Almanac Road, who consist of flatmates Ralph and Smith and their new neighbour who moves in, Jemimah. Upstairs live Karl and Siobhan and they have been unmarried for fifteen years albeit happily. When Cheri moves in to the flat above them she causes havoc by deciding that Karl is the man she wants and sees no reason that a girlfriend should get in the way. The book itself leads us into their lives and sees the end result with both Ralph and Jem getting together and leaving the book with that happy ever after feeling.
However, Lisa Jewell decided that 11 years later she would transport us back to Ralph and Jem's current relationship with her book entitled After The Party. So a few years down the line we find that Ralph and Jem are unmarried, but living together with their two young children. Things are not all sweetness and light and Jem is feeling unsettled with just about everything. She is currently trying to raise her demanding and Diva like daughter Scarlett, still nurture her baby boy Blake, and keep her career going with a difficult client as well as keeping her marriage to Ralph on an even keel.
Both Ralph and Jem find that life doesn't seem that simple anymore. Jem begins to feel quietly disgruntled with everything that Ralph does and Ralph is feeling more and more like he's not even part of his own family. Slowly they realise that their ideal family life that they viewed all those years ago through rose tinted glasses is nothing like their present reality. Whilst Jem and Ralph both go on their own paths of discovery they both wonder at whether their relationship can survive. Will they make it through or will they be like the thousands of others that have tried and failed to make a marriage work.
Firstly, I cannot believe that an author has finally made the fantastic move to revisit a previous `happy ending' story. I really enjoyed Ralph's Party but found that not only did I enjoy this current book, but I fell in love with the characters all over again. Lisa Jewell has exceeded every expectation I could have imagined and produced an absolutely first class book. She didn't take the easy option of the characters being 100% happy with a perfect life. This book is far from what most would expect an easy `chick lit' author to produce. Lisa Jewell tackles all of the gritty real life issues that couple who are married and with a family may encounter.
She managed to keep the spirit of these characters but yet developed them as older and wiser from what they were in Ralph's Party. There are some sensitive issues that I think are dealt with incredibly well although I'm reluctant to be specific as I don't want any spoilers in my review. The story is started with the current situation that Jem finds herself in and slowly introduces the past year and the story unfolds as the reader gets further into the book. What I also loved was the fact that the author didn't rush the ending and the reader is still wondering what will be the outcome right until the last few chapters. I cannot praise this book enough and would highly recommend it to anybody. It's isn't necessary to read the first book Ralph's Party but for those that have I think this is a wonderful way to look at the progression of Ralph and Jem's life. An absolutely fabulous read that can't be awarded anything other than 5 out of 5. Get out there and get yourself a copy!