This book was 100% awful. At only 197 pages, I assumed it would be a breeze to read, only to find myself mired in a swamp of pronouns without antecedents, two-dimensional characters not even a mother could love, and the dullest plot known to man. I’m pretty sure it took me three weeks to finish because I could never find any sort of emotional hook to keep me interested.
Isabel Colgate’s The Shooting Party takes place at a shooting party (I know, you’re shocked) on a country estate in Oxfordshire, England during the height of the Edwardian era. Since my husband and I host a weekly podcast covering Downton Abbey, I figured reading this book might give me more insight into the time period.
Nope. The only insight I got was that Julian Fellowes definitely read this book before writing Gosford Park and Downton Abbey and thought, “Hmmmm, what an interesting time period. I bet I could make all these plot points suck a lot less!”
The titular party is hosted by Sir Randolph, a crotchety old Baronet who sees his agrarian way of life slowly slipping away, and his wife Minnie, a card shark who loves gambling and a well-executed meal. Their guests include Lionel Stephens, a dopey intellectual who is in love with the sensitive, intelligent Olivia, who is married to some guy named Bob Lillburn, who’s sort of the Bluto in this scenario. There’s also Aline Hartlip, a social climber famous for her affairs, and her husband, Gilbert, who is widely known as one of Britain’s finest shooters. Sir Randolph and Minnie’s grandchildren are also in attendance, Marcus, a student, Cicely, a flirt, Osbert, a mentally-deficient duck-owner, and Violet, a spoiled brat.
There are other people involved—a maid and footman who are romantically linked, an animal-rights activist, the head gamekeeper and his son, and a poacher who’s been hired as a beater for the festivities, but they, too, are rendered dull as paint by Colgate’s indifferent, spare prose. I never got the feeling that Colgate cared much for any of these characters, and without anyone to root for, this book is like a newspaper account of a country shoot that goes on for far too long. There’s all the usual noise about the class system and the whisperings of WWI, but it never adds up to a story worth telling.