Estranged childhood friends Oscar and Sebastian-both too young to have a personal relationship with the AIDS crisis but too old to have enjoyed the freedom of an out adolescence-spend a year grappling with cultural identity, generational change, and what they see in, and owe to, each other.
This poignant and poetic debut novel brings together Sebastian and Oscar, two long-lost friends who have a chance meeting at a wedding, as they sort out their conflicting views on relationships, settling down, and, ultimately, what it means to be queer ... Though Sebastian and Oscar’s perspectives sometimes lack nuance and are at points hard to empathize with, in their juxtaposition readers will find a compelling exploration of the experiences of queer people from different generations as two modern-day gay men figure out whether they want to conform to traditional views of relationships and marriage or break free entirely.
Some readers may give up on the story in its early stages because Sebastian and Oscar appear unlikeable and are totally egotistical and absorbed with themselves. But after 50 pages, the story begins to gel better resulting in the reader investing a little more in trying to understand the viewpoints of Sebastian and Oscar as they mull over various facets of being gay. But their perpetual struggle to find meaning and connection in their own emotional struggles prevents the reader from appreciating that a larger percentage of gay people are happy and content in their lives than those who are not. The reader risks being left with wondering if the reason for their unhappiness is because they are gay or is part of a wider American obsession with happiness—the feeling that everyone has a right to be happy or, at least, feel happy ... The greatest weakness in the novel is that readers will find it difficult to develop an affinity with either of the two main characters, coupled with unrealistic plotting ... sometimes feels like a crossover between a self-help guidebook and fiction, particularly when Sebastian and Oscar get into their own style of self-analysis, but the plot is nevertheless engrossing and contains a good level of suspense. What is clearly evident is that Salih has the potential to be a good writer.
Let’s Get Back to the Party’s opening decision to jam its characters into outdated and mutually exclusive gay roles—instead of exploring the overlap between them—sets up the book for an inevitable failure ... None of Oscar’s literary cruising is handled with any nuance or depth ... While a successful first-person point of view is a unique opportunity to interrogate a character’s interior world, in Let’s Get Back to the Party it cockblocks the novel from developing a political consciousness of its own beyond the wooden ideological dyad of its leading men. As Oscar’s internal monologues veer into offensive cliché and caricature, he becomes a monstrous hodgepodge of the worst gay men have to offer ... So what does it mean to be a gay man today? Let’s Get Back to the Party doesn’t offer any clear or compelling answers, but perhaps the larger issue is that the book’s fundamental question isn’t all that interesting. Who still believes in a world where one can talk about a unified, homogeneous gay subject? ... Unfortunately, the reader is given superficial characters slotted into a contrived plotline, resulting in a politically shallow book that devolves into utter nonsense.