The Last Book Party
July 2019 Indie Next List
— Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN
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*A July 2019 Indie Next List Great Read*
*One of Parade's Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2019*
*An O Magazine Best Beach Read of 2019*
*A New York Post Best Beach Read of 2019*
“The Last Book Party is a delight. Reading this story of a young woman trying to find herself while surrounded by the bohemian literary scene during a summer on the Cape in the late '80s, I found myself nodding along in so many moments and dreading the last page. Karen Dukess has rendered a wonderful world to spend time in.”
—Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six
A propulsive tale of ambition and romance, set in the publishing world of 1980’s New York and the timeless beaches of Cape Cod.
In the summer of 1987, 25-year-old Eve Rosen is an aspiring writer languishing in a low-level assistant job, unable to shake the shadow of growing up with her brilliant brother. With her professional ambitions floundering, Eve jumps at the chance to attend an early summer gathering at the Cape Cod home of famed New Yorker writer Henry Grey and his poet wife, Tillie.
Dazzled by the guests and her burgeoning crush on the hosts’ artistic son, Eve lands a new job as Henry Grey’s research assistant and an invitation to Henry and Tillie’s exclusive and famed "Book Party"— where attendees dress as literary characters. But by the night of the party, Eve discovers uncomfortable truths about her summer entanglements and understands that the literary world she so desperately wanted to be a part of is not at all what it seems.
A page-turning, coming-of-age story, written with a lyrical sense of place and a profound appreciation for the sustaining power of books, Karen Dukess's The Last Book Party shows what happens when youth and experience collide and what it takes to find your own voice.
Praise For The Last Book Party…
"Karen Dukess plants a bright flag on the dunes with her debut....Dukess delivers a spare, bittersweet page-turner that culminates in the Greys' much-anticipated end-of-summer party....Dukess's unmistakable love of words, stories and 'book people' is what keeps you bobbing briskly along with the waves."
—The New York Times Book Review, Beach Reads Roundup
"This coming-of-age novel offers up a healthy dose of late '80s nostalgia, and it's a breezy read for book enthusiasts."
"A book that will make you nostalgic about both 1980s NYC and book publishing."
—The New York Post
". . . .Ideal for a trip to the beach or a weekend getaway. . . .the lovingly created mood, particularly in Truro and its surroundings, makes it easy to keep turning the pages."
—AM New York
"The Last Book Party is at once delightfully gossipy and intellectually serious, an ode to literature and a warning against hero-worship."
"[The Last Book Party is a] charming debut novel with a Gatsbyesque feel. . . .With her pitch-perfect style, Dukess evokes the bygone gentility of the publishing world. . . .More than an entertaining novel of the era, The Last Book Party captures the dawning self-knowledge of an aspiring young writer who is held back by a mix of her insecurities, naivete, and expectations of the day who realizes that she has been intoxicated by illusions of brilliance but one day may be able to fulfill her own ambitions."
—National Book Review
"Part coming of age, part gossipy peek into the enclave of writers, editors, poets, and artists who annually escaped the heat of Boston and New York to talk, drink, and work on Cape Cod, this semi-nostalgic debut is the ideal summer read for book people."
—Library Journal, starred review
“The Last Book Party is a delight. A story of a young woman trying to find herself while surrounded by the bohemian literary scene during a summer on the Cape in the late 80s, I found myself nodding along in so many moments and dreading the last page. Karen Dukess has rendered a wonderful world to spend time in.”
—Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six
"The Last Book Party captures a world tantalizingly close to the surface of memory, in which things now lost to time mattered a great deal, and the Internet era was slouching toward us to be born. This Orphic book goes down to retrieve a beloved New York, and the pleasant ache at its heart is that it can’t bring it back forever. Charming, lovely, and written with a light touch, this book captures the longing and unease of summer romance amid the complexity of post-graduate life. Shades of Goodbye, Columbus, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and Bright Lights, Big City haunt its pages."
—Matthew Thomas, New York Times-bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves
"Laced with the light of its Cape Cod setting, The Last Book Party details a 1980s summer among the literary set that has far-flung consequences for all its characters. As much as the book focuses on love affairs between people, readers will leave inspired by the real love affair here: between Karen Dukess and the world of reading and writing that she illuminates."
—Stephanie Clifford, New York Times bestselling author of Everybody Rise
"Karen Dukess has written a modern yet timeless coming-of-age story about friendship, romance, and one young woman's complicated relationship with a wickedly charming family of literary superstars. Emotional and evocative, The Last Book Party left me aching for the hard lessons of youth, trembling with hope—and utterly transfixed until the final page."
—Ann Mah, bestselling author of The Lost Vintage
“This bittersweet summer romance had me turning pages right up to the end. If you love books about books—and if you’ve ever dressed up as your favorite literary character—this is a party you won’t want to miss.”
—Jason Rekulak, author of The Impossible Fortress
“The Last Book Party made me incredibly nostalgic for an iconic literary world of New York that is no more, one that smells of cigarettes, whiskey on the rocks, promiscuity, and miraculous bursts of luck. Karen Dukess' coming of age tale is a magnifying lens from the past that shows us a glimpse of who we are (and can be) today. A story from 1987 that is surprisingly in dialogue with a contemporary conversation about what it means to be a woman, a writer, and an artist struggling to find a place, The Last Book Party is a novel about a young woman in search for a voice written by a writer who has clearly found hers."
—Chiara Barzini author of Things That Happened Before The Earthquake
"The writing is as breezy as the air in this Cape-Cod-meets-Fifth-Avenue publishing world bildungsroman."
—Lucinda Rosenfeld, author of Class
“Read this book. Read it alone—you’ll laugh out loud. And read it slowly, because you won’t want it to end. Through heart-wrenching twists and hilarious turns, The Last Book Party tells the ultimately uplifting universal tale of the breakthrough that comes of a young woman’s shattered illusions.”
—Suzy Becker, bestselling author-illustrator of All I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat and I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse?
"Readers aching for the sun-dappled intrigue of André Aciman's Call Me By Your Name or the wit of Francine Prose's Blue Angel will find a kindred reading experience here...Mixing ambivalence, nostalgia and the power of innocence in an idyllic setting, this journey of self-discovery is an ideal summer read for those who might shun more typical 'beach-read' offerings."
"Written with fresh confidence and verve, this first novel is a bibliophile's delight, with plenty of title-dropping and humorous digs at the publishing scene of the 1980s. The lyrical evocations of the Cape Cod landscape will also enchant readers seeking that perfect summer read."
"Aspiring writer Eve Rosen finds herself unhappy in her job as an assistant. When she gets invited to attend a party thrown by a writer she admires, she jumps at the opportunity. Getting tangled up in this new world, she quickly learns that the literary world holds dark secrets she never saw coming."
Henry Holt and Co., 9781250225474, 256pp.
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. The Last Book Party is the title of the book, but it is only a small part of the book. Did you expect this? Why do you think the book party is so important to Eve and the other characters? What does it represent?
2. On page 16 Alva tells Eve to read I Capture the Castle even though Eve says she has already read it. Why do you think she chose that book? What was she trying to communicate to Eve? How does I Capture the Castle parallel The Last Book Party? (If you haven’t read I Capture the Castle, you can look up a quick summary, or your group could read both books and consider both narrators.)
3. Place is a large part of this book. Eve has a strong attachment to the Cape and has memorized most of the environment. Why do you think this environment is so soothing for Eve? What do you notice differently about the way she thinks about Florida versus the Cape?
4. Eve seems a bit naïve to the relationships and identities of many characters, but on page 43 she very clearly defines the difference between the editorial and publicity roles at the publishing house. Why do you think she can see these roles and personalities in work so clearly, but she has a harder time with people outside of work?
5. Eve is treated without as much respect or understanding because she is female. Even her boss hires a young blond male to replace Don, the editorial assistant, rather than promoting Eve to fill that position. Her parents accept her publishing interests as a holding pattern while she finds a husband. At the end of the book when Franny calls Eve a “hiccup” and Henry looks at her as if she could be anyone, Eve realizes she really could have been anyone. Do you think the way she is treated as a female by these characters is specific to 1987 or do you think these issues are still present today?
6. Eve seems aware of her limitations and people’s perceptions about women but she does not verbally advocate for herself or women. Why do you think this is?
7. What other differences and similarities do you see between 1987 in the novel and today in terms of gender, career, relationships, and social values?
8. Eve’s relationship with Danny seems to be another example of her feeling less important and less seen. Do you think this has as much to do with his excelling in his mathematics career as it does with their gender? Do you think their parents would have handled his depression differently if it had been Eve instead of Danny?
9. The other book Alva gives Eve is Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. How does this book inform the current story with Henry and Eve? Why do you think Alva recommends this other than to show a parallel house-building experience?
10. Eve is suspicious of Jeremy from the beginning of the book until after the party. She even disregards his advice about taking the job with Henry. Why do you think she is so suspicious immediately of Jeremy when she is otherwise so non-judgmental of other characters?
11. Jeremy challenges Eve’s idea of being a writer and how to write. He sees it as hard work and not just dependent on the few moments when a story simply comes to you. He doesn’t believe it’s a gift the way that Eve and her mom describe it. Why do you think Eve created this idea of being a writer? Why does she seem surprised by Jeremy’s feelings on the topic?
12. In some ways Eve seems much younger than 25 years old. How do you think Alva and Malcolm and her parents are trying to help or hinder her growth?
13. The book is structured by month until after the party. Why do you think the author chose to set Part V one year later? What was your reaction to that shift?