7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Fletcher is a first-time novelist of exceptional sensitivity, able to capture essential moments, so intimate that they become personal. With a keen eye, time and place take on substance, familiarity.
Pregnant with her first child, the sights and sounds of childhood come alive once more for Evangeline Green, filling the long days of waiting. Looking back on her 8th year, the first in a new home after the sudden death of her mother, Evangeline recollects the scenes of childhood, the smells, favorite objects, and a comforting assemblage of oddities that make up a household. Transplanted from Birmingham to rural Wales, city lights and sounds are replaced by country noises, "straw, dung, petrol, the stench of dead water, the tang of wood smoke."
Surrounded by secrets, eccentrics and beloved grandparents, Evangeline's learns of ancient relatives, unexpected people and places, a first, headstrong love and abandonment. Desperate to know more about her father, although forbidden to speak of him, Evie has only a box of scribbling, fragments of handwriting, mementos her mother kept hidden. Gathering bits of fact like treasure, Evie hoards the scraps of paper, hints of a great, if short-lived love affair with a man who passed his bright red curls to his daughter.
Evie has few friends in her new home, save Daniel, a farm hand, and Billy, a disabled man, who lives just out of sight, watching everything. Evie befriends Billy in spite of his reticence, gradually adapting to her strange new life. The small Welsh town roils with gossip and suspicion after the disappearance of Rosie Hughes, a beautiful, privileged girl who would have certainly become Evangeline's rival, had she lived. Someone must be held accountable. Through misguided loyalty, Evie commits an error of judgment, with consequences that will haunt her for years.
No matter how old you grow, there are moments that remain, perfectly etched in time; Fletcher captures such images with perfect clarity, jagged shards once whole, the passage to memory. Near the end, I already miss Evangeline's tart, childish perceptions, her tragic misreading of the right thing to do and the comfort of the natural world that feeds the rhythms of her soul. I miss her incisive observations, her plague of red curls and freckles, her capacity for love, even her mistakes. I hope Susan Fletcher has already begun another novel and that I have the patience to wait. Luan Gaines/2004.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Reviewed by Steve Himmer for Small Spiral Notebook
Susan Fletcher's Whitbread-winning debut Eve Green is a story assembled from secrets, those life has kept from the narrator and those she in turn keeps from the reader. The eponymous Eve is seven when she suddenly loses her mother and is whisked away to her grandparents in rural Wales, to live in the house where her mother grew up. With her observant eye and honest, endearing voice, Eve recalls Cassandra from Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, but with a rich twist. Cassandra sought to order the world by writing, whereas Eve relies on reading what has already been written--in particular, on scraps of paper in a shoebox of her mother's. Those textual fragments provide the only record of the father who vanished before Eve was born, and about whom neither her grandparents nor anyone else in their village will speak.
The novel is narrated by a twenty-nine year old Eve as she awaits the birth of her first child. Recalling the earlier years of her life, she weaves an account of recovering the lives of her parents together with the disappearance of a girl her age from the village and the ensuing panic and suspicions. She also reveals a deep attachment to the Welsh valley and crumbling farmhouse that became her home in childhood and in which she still lives after her grandparents have passed away. This sense of place and belonging is one of the novel's great strengths, counterbalancing Eve's sense of rootlessness, as when she reports that the best view of the valley
comes from the old shepherd's hut on the ridge. My castle. My mossy, windy outpost. I'd charge up there on clear days hoping to spy a distant, hazy Cardigan Bay. I'd lie in wait behind the stones for hikers or birdwatchers or deer, or a glimpse of Billy Macklin before he became my friend. And I had breezy picnics in that tussock grass, secret teenage cigarettes, long daydreams, and I hid there in rainstorms or when I just didn't want to be found.
Vivid passages like these come so often in the novel, and so gracefully, that it is easy to overlook how skillfully Fletcher winds the threads of her story together. Characters and locations are introduced with such subtly that when they take on greater importance later, it feels both surprising and natural at once. Those threads are also tied to the landscape, and the lives of the characters are echoed by the quiet details and slow changes of the place in which they live.
Even as the reader revels in these connections, Eve herself remains unaware, seeing both both the natural and social worlds she lives in almost entirely as a collection of details much like her shoebox of scraps. Of the days following her mother's death and her own relocation she notes,
tap water tastes cleaner in Wales; wet earth has a real, incredible smell to it; clouds are bigger; birds come closer. Flowers seem much brighter out here. I don't know why, but they do.
Eve sees her own body, too, as a jumble of individual parts, owing perhaps to the red hair and freckles she has inherited from her father, and how those distinctive features remind the whole village--Eve's grandparents, too--of the criminal he turns out to have been. This sense of assembling herself as she assembles (and we) assembles her story creates an understated suspense and provides the novel with both intrigue and momentum.
For the most part, Eve Green succeeds at striking a melancholy but hopeful balance between what a young Eve slowly discovers, and what the older, narrating Eve already knows. There is an organic, engaging tension in piecing together the details of her history at the very moment she does the same. Other sources of tension, however, feel a bit forced--in particular, the story of the disappeared girl and the sometimes cloying awareness with which the narrator withholds all she knows of that event. While that disappearance provides a local, more tangible loss through which to reflect on Eve's absent parents, it never becomes quite as convincing as the other strands of the novel. It seems to bear little impact on Eve aside from offering a convenient object of transference, and while this may be a result of the distance between the disappearance itself and the narration, such a violent, tragic event seems to demand more significance than it has been allowed, leaving the suspense it engenders somewhat hollow. The reader is never able to forget that the abducted, tangential character exists only to allow the narrator to discuss herself, and that awareness is cruelly unsettling.
Still, to the credit of the novel and its author, that issue only emerges as problematic because the other elements cohere so naturally, and it should by no means overshadow the larger achievement of a fine debut.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Author Susan Fletcher's narrative caught me up from page one and kept me riveted until the conclusion of her Whitbread-winning debut novel "Eve Green." Although not billed as a suspense thriller or mystery, I found this excellent novel to be extremely disquieting, tension-filled and, even though the reader is made aware of what is to come early on in the story, it is a real page-turner.
Twenty-nine year-old Eve Green narrates. Pregnant with her first child by the man she has adored for almost twenty years, she reflects back on an earlier, more innocent time.
Evangeline lived in Birmingham with her mother, a single parent, until she was suddenly, tragically orphaned at age seven - about to turn eight. Evie, as she was then called, was sent to live with her maternal grandparents on their farm in the Welsh countryside, just outside the tiny village of Cae Tresaint. Her mother's parents, devastated by the loss of their only child, welcomed their granddaughter with open arms and much love.
Evie never knew much about her father. Her Mom, Bronwen, and later her grandparents made sure she was kept in the dark about the man who sired her. It was obvious to the child, however, that her mother loved him and thought he was in Birmingham, where she believed she would find him one day. She even kept a shoe box full of mementos of their time together, and a diary, which Evie was forbidden to touch. The shoe box made its way to Wales along with the little girl. Evie would sneak the box down from its hiding place at the top of a wardrobe and look through the contents time and time again, as she tried to piece together the history of her becoming. She was told in Cae Tresaint never to mention her father, but she knew he was called "the Irishman," and that she got her wild red hair and freckles from him.
There were other secrets, prejudices and mysteries concerning the town's people, including the disappearance and probable death of a local girl. Evie had some classified information of her own - her undisclosed friendship with an outsider believed to be mad, a lie she told which had terrible consequences, and a chilling incident with a green-eyed man that marked her forever.
"Eve Green" is compelling in the beauty of its lyrical prose. The magic of a little girl's poignant memories illuminates the novel. Here are revealing portraits of the grandparents Eve loves so much; her three deep and important childhood friendships - all with improbable people - a sensitive and caring farmhand, a crippled recluse, and an intellectual schoolmate with dreams of wandering the world. Eve's love of the Welsh countryside, language and lore is also evident. She has a sense of belonging in the natural world and Ms. Fletcher outdoes herself in her atmospheric descriptions:
"Tor-y-gwynt is surrounded by peat bogs and grass so sharp that it can nick your skin. Red kites are spotted there. Sheep and rabbit dung peppers its lower stones, and I've found many animal bones in the peat over the years - sheep, deer, others. And the wind is strong at the Tor. Hair flutters like a snared bird, and I used to like standing on the highest boulder, trying to keep my balance in the wind."
And: "Comes from the old shepherd's hut on the ridge. My castle. My mossy, windy outpost. I'd charge up there on clear days hoping to spy a distant, hazy Cardigan Bay. I'd lie in wait behind the stones for hikers or birdwatchers or deer, or a glimpse of Billy Macklin before he became my friend. And I had breezy picnics in that tussock grass, secret teenage cigarettes, long daydreams, and I hid there in rainstorms or when I just didn't want to be found."
"Eve Green" reminds me, in some ways, of Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird." (Also of Richard Llewllyn's extraordinary "How Green Was My Valley"). Scout Finch, like Eve Green, is eight and bereft of her mother. Both novels are set in rural areas. They are both rich and colorful in description of locale and locals, and they explore the native customs and mores of the period. Reclusive characters Bo Radley and Billy Macklin are not dissimilar in nature. There are other commonalties, but the one which stands out the most is that these are both outstanding novels. Although, personally, I don't think there are many works of fiction written in English in the last 100 years to match "To Kill A Mockingbird." Given my feelings on that - "Eve Green" is an outstanding work and I recommend it highly! ENJOY!