Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
An expansive, yet shatteringly intimate portrait of a long-term marriage, Dear Evelyn is one of those books that got under my skin. It is a masterpiece of characterisation, with both Evelyn and Harry portrayed with almost careless skill, both characters growing and developing as the novel progresses, and the years roll by, showing that it is possible to depict decades over 300 or so pages, by not trying to chart every minutiae that makes Harry and Evelyn behave the way they do, or evolve in the way that they evolve, but simply nitpicking, every now and then, on one of the tiniest details of their lives that shows us where they are at.
Harry is a character to fall in love with. Caring, a heart full of love for his wife, and an essentially decent man who strives to do what is right by his wife, his family, and his country. Seldom does he think about what is best for him, his love for Evelyn and their daughters is embedded into every single page. Evelyn, by contrast, borders on being deeply selfish, as though the author is holding something of her back.
As the characters age, a searing sense of sadness sets in. Their daughters, witness to the constant bickering of their parents, urge a divorce, and yet the reader knows that this is not something that Harry would ever countenance. And yet, at the same time, as the reader part of you wants Harry to break free from the stifling malignancy his marriage seems to have deteriorated into.
There is a claustrophobic atmosphere in the marriage by the end of the book, and you understand why Evelyn, who was never allowed to live her life as she may have wished to the expectations on her as a wife and mother, makes the decisions that she does. Evelyn’s story is largely unexpressed, her point of view subordinated to that of Harry’s, and so it is understandable why many would feel that Evelyn was a deeply unlikable character, and yet Harry’s love for Evelyn is what stays with you as the novel reaches its end.
View all my reviews