The Garden Party, a lyrical new novel by Grace Dane Mazur, is a modernist throwback of a book. In our age of realistic novels and high-concept dystopias, it is a lovely, shimmering anachronism ... The conflict here can feel reductive ... Still, as unbalanced as the conflict is, it’s beautifully rendered, all seething dislike beneath polite, desperate small talk ... The polyphony of voices in this book can overwhelm ... But Mazur’s prose is so vivid and melodic that it’s easy to let her language sweep you away. Ignore the characters, who are a little dull anyway; listen to the words, which are stunning ... a rich and lovely book.
Such an abundance of characters is a bit of a crowd in a 212-page book, and Mazur takes an impressionistic approach to her narrative, flitting from one point of view to the next and cutting between short scenes ... Despite a few unexpected cross-family bonds forged over asparagus, Mazur’s affections and sympathies lie so clearly with the manic-pixie-dream-family Cohens that it’s difficult to resist rooting rebelliously for the Barlows, who deserve more credit ... Ultimately, The Garden Party is a mood piece, less concerned with the profoundly tricky merging of individuals and families than with the beguilements of summer and of love.
The descriptions of the garden are lush, and Mazur (Trespass, 2002) does a fine job of evoking a summer evening as well as juggling her many characters. Give this to readers who enjoy a comedy of manners and won’t mind the leisurely pace.