Book review: The Reading Party + competition

By Fenella Gentleman
Published by Muswell Press

Synopsis: It is the seventies and the colleges of Oxford are finally opening their doors to women. Sarah Addleshaw, young, spirited and keen to prove her worth, begins term as the first female academic at her college. She is in fact, her college’s only female Fellow. Impulsive love affairs with people, places and the ideas in her head beset Sarah throughout her first exhilarating year as a don, but it is the Reading Party, that has the most dramatic impact. Asked to accompany the first mixed group of students on the annual college trip to Cornwall, Sarah finds herself illicitly drawn to one of them, the suave American Tyler. Torn between professional integrity and personal feelings she faces her biggest challenge to date.

How did this book end up in my hands? I was offered a date on the blog tour organised by RandomThingsTours and I was quick to accept it. I was sold after reading the first sentence of the synopsis!

Was it a page-turner? This book was a steady and reliable companion during many reading hours. A perfect form of escapism with beautiful settings. I didn't feel any urgency to race to the end. Instead, The Reading Party felt like a pleasant journey, to be savoured with no rush.

Having read the synopsis, did the book meet my expectations? The book significantly exceeded my expectations. I thought the book would concentrate on the liaison between Sarah and Tyler but – despite it being important – it is only part of a wider picture. I wasn’t expecting there to be so many characters taking centre stage, all perfectly recognisable by their quirks and mannerisms. For a debut novel, I think this is a remarkable accomplishment.

Did I like the ending? [no spoilers] The ending was delicate and elegant like the rest of the book. Extremely appropriate!

Three words to describe it. Elegant. Subtle. Forward-thinking.

Do I like the cover? I probably would have chosen something more ‘feisty’ (however abstract this might sound!) but this is a lovely cover, conveying warmth and quiet. You can read more about its development here.

Have I read any other books by the same author? This is the author’s debut novel and I’m definitely going to keep myself up-to-date with her future work.

Will I be recommending this book? How could I not? There is romance, there is a group of intellectuals in breath-taking settings and intricate human dynamics… all at a time of change for women and education.

Anything else? Yes! The publisher has kindly offered one copy of The Reading Party to go to a lucky reader! All you have to do is follow me on Twitter and retweet the competition post by 15/07. UK only. All comments left below will count as extra entries (one per person). Good luck!

To read more about this book, do check out what the other bloggers on the tour had to say!

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