Q&A With ‘The Dinner Party’ Author Brenda Janowitz
About The Dinner Party:
Appearance and status are very important to Sylvia Gold. She has high standards and always gets what she wants. So, when she learns her youngest daughter is not only dating a Rothschild, but is bringing him—and his parents—to Passover Seder, she’s so giddy she nearly faints. These are, after all, the same Rothschilds who have controlled banking for the last 200 years, own vineyards in Napa, diamond mines in Africa, and have movies made about them.
Sylvia spares no expense in preparing, as making a good impression is all she thinks about. Well, almost. She still has to consider her other daughter, Sarah, who’ll be coming with her longtime beau, whom Sylvia disapproves, and his overly-dramatic Italian mother. But the drama won’t stop there. Because, despite the food and the wine, despite the new linen and the fresh flowers, the holidays are about family.
Long-forgotten memories come to the surface. Old grievances play out. And Sylvia Gold has to learn how to let her family go.
What is the inspiration behind The Dinner Party?
I wanted to write a book about letting go, and how only when we let go of the past can we move on with the future. I had this idea of centering a book around a big family holiday, and Passover seemed like the perfect metaphor for this—“Let my people go” and all that — so the idea for THE DINNER PARTY was born.
What do you hope readers take away from the novel?
First off, I always want to entertain. I want readers to take a break from their busy lives for a while, and immerse themselves in another world. The biggest compliment I ever got about one of my books was that a reader was so into the book, she’d missed her subway stop.
But on a deeper level, I want readers to think about family and their own relationships, too. Think about how we hold onto the past. About how that affects our lives.
— Brenda Janowitz (@BrendaJanowitz) May 6, 2014
What are your go-to snacks while writing?
I’m a big popcorn lover, so I’ve always got a bag of Skinny Pop at the ready. But I usually start my writing day the second I get the kids off the bus, so coffee is a must. And if some muffins happen to sneak in there, too, well, that’s not a bad thing.
What has been the best seder or dinner party you’ve been to and why? What has been the craziest seder or dinner party you’ve been to and why?
I have such fond memories of the Passover seders at my Grandma Dorothy’s house. We’d all dress up, eat her delicious food, and enjoy time with extended family, cousins and aunts and uncles we only got to see for holiday.
When it came time to host my own seder, I wanted to make one that was as perfect as the ones we’d spent at Grandma Dorothy’s house. But instead, five minutes after putting the brisket into the oven, I slipped and fell on some water and ended up in the ER all day with a concussion. My perfect seder never happened.
What is your favorite meal to cook and/or eat during a seder or dinner party?
I love making brisket, and now that I’ve found this fabulous recipe from The Pioneer Woman, it’s become a family staple for all holiday meals. I also have fond memories of my Grandma Dorothy’s mandelbread. And my kids now love the mandelbread that my mother-in-law makes—when she’s not in town for the family seder, she ships it up from Florida!
Hello, gorgeous. pic.twitter.com/oaZLGuTKlb
— Brenda Janowitz (@BrendaJanowitz) October 21, 2015
Images Courtesy of Brenda Janowitz