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Henry Green: Party Going

Like many of Green’s novels, this novel is set in an closed area, cut off from the rest of the world, with the rest of the world remote and distant. In this case, the closed setting is a London railway station – presumably Victoria – which is fog-bound, preventing trains from arriving and departing and causing chaos on the roads as well. The setting becomes even more limited as the main characters move into the station hotel, which is itself locked off from the outside to prevent too many people coming in. The main characters are a group of well-to-do people who are about to go to France on the boat-train and who find themselves stranded at the station. The entire action takes place during the few hours in which they wait for the fog to lift. Most of their discussion is trivial – flirtatious behavior, mild drunkenness and obsession with trivial events of their lives.

There are three (minor) events which take place. Firstly, Miss Fellowes – Auntie May – who has come to the station to see some of the passengers off, sees a pigeon killed when it hits a balustrade. She wants to dispose of the dead pigeon in a nice way, rather than leave its body there, so she wraps it up in brown paper and tries to dispose of it but fails. Eventually, she becomes sick and faints and her recovery in the hotel is a key topic, not least because it might be disruptive to their travel plans. Secondly, someone has seen an announcement in the paper about”Embassy” Richard, a figure of fun, because he is always going to parties whether invited or not. The announcement states that he will not be able to attend a specific party, even though he has not been invited to it. Who placed the ad? Finally, and the most interesting, is Amabel’s bath. This turns into a suggestive, erotic event, which lifts this novel out of the ordinary. But, apart from this and despite Green’s wit and literary skill, I found it this novel rather dull.

Publishing history

First published 1939 by The Hogarth Press