1 June 2021
Thomas J. Sojka, Boston University
In Henry Green’s Party Going (1939), a fog descends upon London, stopping traffic and trains and leaving travellers bound for home or holidays stranded. A travelling party en route to the south of France seeks refuge in a nearby hotel, while many people are left standing outside, full of uncertainty of what to do next. The novel is one of plans interrupted, of inertia stalled, and of anxieties about the impossibility of mobility. Similarly, the world shuddered to a halt in early 2020 with the onset of a pandemic. But, unlike the fog in the novel, which lifts after four or five hours allowing for normal life to resume and for travellers to continue their journeys, the pandemic that drove us indoors and disrupted our travel has been here for a year and a half. In contrast to other party fiction from the interwar years, where the parties never seem to end—one only needs to think of the oft-quoted litany of parties from Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies (1930)—the party in Party Going seems to never start. The frustration with this sense of being trapped and with the inability to do anything to change our circumstances makes Green’s novel a choice read for our present moment. The end, similarly, gives us some hope for the months ahead—the fog does lift, and everyone, suddenly, is able to resume their daily lives.
Continue reading “Party Going in a Pandemic” →