After the Party by Cressida Connolly is a deliciously rich historical drama set on the eve of the second world war. Dripping with detail, it follows the life of a well-to-do woman who falls in with the ‘county set’. Glamorous parties and Tatler-worthy gossip introduce her to a new world of decadent debauchery and dinner party politics. However it’s her sister’s affiliation with an emerging political party that draws Phyllis and her family deeper into an ideological web of so-called British values. What parades as a peace mission to protect national interests, transpires to be the propaganda machine of the British Union of Fascists. Led by Sir Oswald Mosley, Phyllis falls prey to the enigmatic leader’s charm and promises. Connolly sheds a light on this less publicised period of British politics to capture public sentiment and more interestingly women's role in the BUF. Lured by the prospect of not having to relinquish another generation of sons, husbands and brothers to Germany’s grip, women played a major part in driving forwards Moseley’s movement: filled with the promise of peace but ultimately overshadowed by the party’s nationalist and anti-semitic agenda. For Phyllis, decisions made in good faith lead to unexpected and devastating consequences. Connolly’s novel is a deft examination of the turbulent politics that defined the era, while remaining full of personality and intrigue. The story is one of high society, family honour and political subversion. Whether or not the parallel was intentional, it felt particularly relevant in the face of ongoing Brexit conversations. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, there has been an immense amount of scaremongering to sway public opinion. Leaning on fear tactics, whether it be for peace or saving our NHS, is something pre-war Britain and Brexit have in common and that still divides our country almost 80 years on.
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After The Party by Cressida Connolly. Viking, 2018.