Upstairs at the Party by Linda Grant - review by Suzi Feay

Suzi Feay

State of the Reunion

Upstairs at the Party


Virago 306pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Our narrator, Adele Ginsberg, wangles her way into university in the early 1970s by falsely asserting a family tie to the more famous Allen. The poet has obligingly sent her a card opening ‘Dear Cousin’. The tutor in charge of admissions is amused but unconvinced: ‘Our grandfathers were all liars, mine was, yours was. Still, it’s quite a good attempt.’ ‘We were an alliance of liars,’ Adele muses decades later, on a return visit to her alma mater, as another don marvels at how much has changed: ‘In those days we did take a risk on people, we were able to. I’m not even sure if the DofE would let us get away with it now. And the parents of applicants with the three As might even sue.’

An author’s note declares: ‘This novel is based on a particular time in my own life, but the characters are the product of my own imagination.’ Adele – like Grant, born in Liverpool – loses her father to suicide at a young age. She is restless, curious, not particularly academic but up for adventure; physically, she resembles the contemporary icon Patti Smith, or so her lovers tell her. More than that, she is

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