The Book of Eve: A Review – Linda Poitevin

The Book of Eve: A Review

My name is Linda, and it has been more than a year since I posted my last review. Full confession? It's been almost that long since I even read a book, never mind reviewed it. sigh

But life is calmer now (shhh! don't tell the universe I said that!), and so here you go: my thoughts on The Book of Eve, by Constance Beresford-Howe.

Why I read it

I had a neighbour over for wine on the terrace a few weeks ago, and over the course of the evening, talk (as it is wont to do in a writer's conversations with others) turned to books. My neighbour told me she was reading a story about an older woman who one day–with no forethought or warning whatsoever–walks out on her husband and her life. I was intrigued by the premise (having occasionally let my own imagination wander down the what if path over the course of 30 years of marriage and motherhood), and pleased when my neighbour dropped the book into my mailbox a few days later.

What I liked about it

Set in Montreal, Canada, The Book of Eve was published in 1973 and presents a snapshot of an era that I grew up in but didn't really appreciate or remember in great detail. The author is a master at bringing the everyday city to life for the reader. Never wandering off into overdone descriptions, she gives just enough attention to tiny details to make you see the heroine Eva's world through her eyes, using language that is unique and unusual, but not flowery: “Our house was full of clocks rustling their self-importance and coughing delicately like people in church…”

I loved Eva herself, too, and thought Beresford-Howe did a wonderful job of showing her character growth, pulling no punches when it came to the self-doubt, the depression, the flickers of hope–all things I can imagine one might go through in Eva's shoes, particularly in an era when women really didn't do things like leave the security of a marriage.

What I didn't like

I have to watch the use of sentence fragments in my own writing, and books like The Book of Eve remind me why: too many of them are just darned annoying. While I suspect Beresford-Howe used that particular technique to reflect Eva's own fractured thinking, I found it distracting and occasionally downright jarring…especially when I had to reread something several times over to make sense of it grammatically. So note to self: a few fragments go a long way. 😉

Final thoughts

While this isn't the kind of book I would pick up on my own, I enjoyed it a great deal and I'm glad my neighbour loaned it to me. If you enjoy women's literary fiction and you're open to an older work, I recommend it.

Happy reading!

Linda

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