My novel The Uninvited Guests [Harper, $24.99] has as a centerpiece a dinner party. It is April 1912. A small celebration is being held at Sterne, the beloved but dilapidated country house that is home to the Torrington family. The dinner is beset with all kinds of disasters: culinary, emotional and metaphysical. There has been a train accident nearby and the many survivors are wandering about the house waiting to be collected by the railway. One of their number is not content to be left out of the birthday party and insinuates himself into the group. He is a charismatic, devilish fellow and when he suggests a parlour game of his devising the little party find they are powerless to resist playing. The game is called Hinds and Hounds, and the gist of it is that the diners, mimicking the behaviour of dogs in a deer hunt, are to separate out the hinds - the weaker amongst their fellow guests - one by one. The game, and the party, reach a crisis; revelations and unsavoury secrets are unearthed, and the path of the evening takes a very dark turn. It struck me that there are many such pivotal parties in literature, either comical or dramatic, glamorous, unpleasant, or just plain uncomfortable - as novelists, playwrights and filmmakers through the generations imprison their characters around a table and take note of the consequences. Here are just a few:
Best Dinner Parties In Literature And Film
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