Thursday 11 April 2019

Dear Evelyn

Dear Evelyn By Kathy Page
Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page is a love story that spans seventy years. Harry, a young man who wins a scholarship that enables him to learn much about his beloved poetry, meets the strong-willed Evelyn when they bump into each other on the library steps in pre-war London.  Drawn not only to her appearance, but also her collection of books, Harry quickly envisions a future together. He walks her home thereby beginning their lifelong relationship. 

Harry and Evelyn marry soon after their chance meeting, just as war breaks out.  Harry is deployed to Tunisia, while Evelyn and their infant daughter, Lillian, escape London to the country. Harry writes home regularly, at first lyrically and poetic, full of the love and desire he holds for Evelyn.  However, as he becomes dragged down by the bleakness of war and death, his letters also become so.  It is one of these bleak letters to which Evelyn comments that Harry is writing not for her, but for him; this is in part truth as Harry’s letters are a means for him to escape the atrocities he is experiencing and to think of a better time. 

After the war, Harry looks forward to returning to family life, hoping to write, but is committed to keeping Evelyn happy by working hard and studying to improve his prospects. Naturally, with each improvement in the family’s life – the big house, the lovely garden -- Evelyn places more demands on Harry, who struggles occasionally with the constraints of domesticity, but nevertheless gives in to her requests to preserve a quiet life.

As Harry and Evelyn move through life together, their three daughters grow into independent women and offer their opinions on their parents’ marriage. They frequently question Harry’s devotion to a woman as hard and demanding as Evelyn, but throughout Harry maintains his love and patience for a life that may not be one he truly desires, but one to which he is truly committed.

Dear Evelyn is a detailed character study that pulls you into the lives of Harry and Evelyn causing you to feel for each of them as you watch the sometimes painful, sometimes joyous ebb and flow of their nearly seventy years together.

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Thursday 4 April 2019

The Small Things That End the World

The Small Things That End the World - Lynes, Jeanette
The Small Things That End The World
By Jeanette Lynes

It’s 1954, and Sadie Wilder just got the call she’s been waiting for.  Her friend, Wanda, has the mumps, and the rich family she babysits for is desperate.  So begins Jeanette Lynes’ The Small Things that End the World. 

Sadie is more than happy to fill in, hoping to prove herself indispensable to the Bannisters.  She is floored by the dashing Forest Bannister in his Austin-Healey, and covets the Bannisters’ beautiful seafoam green appliances.  She even begins to like little Bobby, although she’s not so sure about the baby and her incessant diaper smell.

But diapers become the least of her worries when the storm outside the Bannisters’ upscale Toronto home begins to lash at the windows and the power goes out.  Then tree limbs start to break through the windows and water invades the house.  Eventually Sadie must make her way out onto the roof with her young charges as Hurricane Hazel bears down.

Fast forward nineteen years and we meet Sadie’s daughter, Faith.  Mother and daughter live on a chicken farm in rural Ontario.  The night of the hurricane has left an indelible mark on Sadie – a weight on her shoulders that she has inadvertently passed on to Faith.   When Faith discovers that Sadie has been hiding a family secret, she hits the road, hitch hiking to Thunder Bay to start a new life.

Again we move forward in time to meet Faith’s daughter, Amber.  This mother and daughter pair have moved from Toronto to New Orleans.  As Amber struggles to fit in at her new all-American high school, Faith struggles as a single mother with no family support.  But when Amber stumbles upon Sadie’s name, she knows she must meet her grandmother.

And so we come full circle.  Three generations of women must decide if they can heal old wounds and move forward together. 

Lynes’ strength is her effective use of dramatically different voices for each of her three characters.  Haunted by family secrets, each woman struggles to build her own life, separate from her mother. But despite their mistakes, each character is altogether likeable and the novel as a whole is an enjoyable read.