THE DIVORCE PARTY by Laura Dave


The Divorce Party by Laura Dave has a good premise. It’s about two couples – Gwyn and Tom, a middle-aged couple who are getting divorced, and Maggie and Nate (Gwyn and Tom’s son), who are engaged. Gwyn and Tom have decided to throw a “divorce party” to commemorate the end of their marriage, and have invited 200 of their friends to attend the party at their mansion in Montauk, at the end of Long Island. Maggie, who has no idea that her fiance comes from a wealthy family until the morning of the party, is upset that Nate hasn’t been forthcoming with her about his past, and she uncovers even more surprises about his background as the day wears on, causing her to question her commitment to the relationship.

Here are all the reasons why this book didn’t live up to expectations:

  • As I’ve mentioned many times, I really don’t like when books take place over the course of a single day, or a weekend. They’re exhausting and unrealistic. How could all of those things have happened in such a compressed time? The Divorce Party opens early one morning and concludes late in that same day – and a LOT happens in between. I’ve complained about this before and it really bothers me.
  • There were too many plot implausibilities in The Divorce Party. Given the circumstances around Gwyn and Tom’s impending separation, Gwyn should have acted a lot angrier at Tom than she did. She is angry at him, and wants to try to hold on to her marriage, but her treatment of him belied that anger and took away from the plausibility of the story. I also wasn’t convinced that Maggie could have known so little about Nate’s past, given their 18-month courtship. These were the pillars on which Dave built the parallel (yet opposite) paths of the two relationships, and they rang false for me. I also have a hard time believing that divorce parties as a phenomenon are really as therapeutic as people say they are.
  • Dave’s writing style is very repetitive, which drove me a bit crazy since I listened to the book on audio. Examples: “She looks at him, right into his eyes. They are endless. And she can see that he believes it. She can see that he believes the impossible, which can be a recipe for disappointment…” and “Somehow that feels like too big a question. Somehow that feels like everything.” and “But she has to think that it isn’t always going to be like this. As he moves closer to her, she knows she doesn’t want it to be like this, and he doesn’t want that.” These examples are all from the same page. I think that this book needed much better editing.
  • I listened to The Divorce Party on audio, and it was just OK. The narration of certain voices (Georgia, Maggie) was very shrill and unpleasant. And the whole tone felt angry and aggressive. I wonder how much that affected my enjoyment of the book.
  • Finally, I just kept thinking, “Are these characters’ lives really that bad? Why are they so unhappy? They are very rich, and yes, one marriage is falling apart. But why is everyone so angry and defensive and dissatisfied? If you found out your fiance was really, really rich, wouldn’t you maybe see a silver lining there?” I wanted to shake them and say, “Get some perspective!”

Goodreads reviews of The Divorce Party are pretty positive. I feel like I missed something here – this book just didn’t do it for me. Anyone out there with a different take on it?

FTC disclaimer: I bought this one at the Strand.

7 Comments

  • April 6, 2012 - 7:47 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t like the idea of celebrating a divorce that way.

  • April 7, 2012 - 12:24 am | Permalink

    Omg I just read this book and LOVED it. 🙂

    I didn’t mind the one day format at all since so much of what happened was internal?

    I thought she depicted the inner lives of her two protagonists well…I mean money isn’t everything? And Maggie had a really rough life growing up and Nate kept like..so much from her. I mean I totally agreed with her that it changed a lot of the ways she thought about him and his background. As far as Gwyn, well..I don’t know I guess the whole idea of loving someone so much and being willing to do ANYTHING to make it work and have them reject that love sort of resonated. I mean that is a valid hurt IMO.

    Also her style of repetition works for me I guess, but I have a feeling it’s the kind of thing that might work better in print than audio. I loved both characters so IDK maybe the audio did affect your perception or we just have really different taste!

    • gayle
      April 7, 2012 - 10:24 pm | Permalink

      Amy, you make good points, especially about Maggie’s upbringing and Gwynn’s desperation to keep Tom. I am definitely in the minority on this one! I don’t think our tastes are that different – maybe the audio really hurt the experience for me.

  • April 9, 2012 - 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m sad you didn’t like this one! I loved it, as I’ve loved all three of Dave’s novels. I wonder how much the audio impacted that. I recall tearing through this novel in an afternoon, so the one day didn’t bother me because I was experiencing it in one day too. Have you read other Dave novels? Truthfully, The Divorce Party is perhaps my least favorite of hers, but I still adored it.

    • gayle
      April 9, 2012 - 8:50 pm | Permalink

      Hmmm. You and I are usually in lockstep! This was the first Dave I have read – will have to look into the others.

      • April 10, 2012 - 11:10 am | Permalink

        I know! It makes me wonder if audio was part of the problem. Although we have disagreed a few times before too! I’ll be curious to hear how you fare with another Laura Dave novel!

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