When I went visiting my Yorkshire family last summer, my mother-in-law gave me a pile of books she had enjoyed reading to take home with me. Because I was in no hurry to read them all, I have only now finished reading the next-to-last one of the pile:
"The Tennis Party" by Sophie Kinsella, writing as Madeleine Wickham (her real name).
I have read several of her books before, and I know I am repeating myself here, but it never fails to astonish me how much the characters in these books drink. Of course, my previous Kinsella-read (Cocktails For Three, reviewed here) had drinks in the title and therefore was no surprise in this respect. But in so many books of this genre (I suppose it is "Chick Lit"), the ladies (and sometimes the gentlemen, too) drink, and drink, and drink. They don't just have a nice glass of wine to accompany a good meal, or the occasional glass of champagne to celebrate some special occasion or other. They drink like buckets, and seem to be quite proud of it. Now, don't get me wrong - I am certainly no teetotaler; after all, I throw a cocktail party for my birthday every year, and hardly ever say no when offered a glass of champagne at someone's birthday. But to drink for the sake of drinking, and that being the only way to make a gathering worth attending, is absolutely not my style. I can have immense fun (and be very, very silly) on nothing but tap water, if I am in the right mood and good company. I also don't want to get into preaching mode here (I leave that to YP, who is a lot better at using ecclesiastical sounding language than I). But I can't help finding this amount of drinking puzzling, no matter how often I read of it.
Enough of that, now to the story:
Several couples are invited to spend a weekend in the country at the mansion of rich self-made man Patrick, his wife Caroline and their horse-loving daughter. The reason given is to play a tennis tournament among the party guests, who are Stephen and Annie (their neighbours back in the days before Patrick and Cressida became rich), Charles (who used to be just as averagely poor as the others before his marriage) and his aristocratic wife Cressida, plus new rich neighbours Don and Valerie. Stephen and Annie and Charles and Cressida also bring their children, and it looks like everyone is set to enjoy a great weekend with plenty of sunshine, barbecues and - of course - drinks.
Rather soon, though, the true intention for inviting them begins to emerge, and a surprise guest turns up - very welcome to some, most unwelcome to other members of the party.
Temptations of various kinds are thrown at Stephen and Charles, while Annie and Caroline are determined not to let anything come between them to ruin their long standing friendship. Cressida and Charles have troubles of their own to sort out, and the children are not just there to make up numbers, either.
How new and old friendships, as well as love, prevail in the end, is interesting enough to read and not quite as predictable as this type of story sometimes is. So, if you don't mind to read about a lot of drinking (and I mean a LOT), you can enjoy the well-depicted atmosphere of a sunny weekend in the country, where not everything (or everyone) is as it appears on the surface.