Everyone in the room was frolicking in love, splashing each other with love, falling about in it, drinking it, pretending to drown in love. Jake and a tall, spectacled American were wreathed together like schoolgirls. Beth Conway was being hugged by Hurst, in spite of her breath, The cameraman was curled up on the continuity girl’s lap, nuzzling into her mohair breast. I drank a glassful of champagne that someone had left by the bookcase. It was immediately filled again by Conway who said, ‘I’m hanging on to this bottle, it’s the easiest way.’
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Good.’ Jake was mobile at parties, relentlessly leaving people in the middle of a sentence, always planning his next move. I seemed to go from trap to trap. I finished the champagne, hoping it would quell a rising despair.
—’Tis the season for holiday parties (ours is tonight), and we thought we’d share a party scene from Penelope Mortimer’s The Pumpkin Eater. The “I” is the protagnoist, Mrs. Armitage (we never learn her first name); Jake is her successful screenwriting and philandering husband; Conway is a family friend; and his wife Beth works with Jake, with whom, we will unsurprisingly discover, she has been having an affair. Read Daphne Merkin’s introduction here and enjoy your office parties!