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.
For other popular reading suggestions check out Richmond Public Library’s Web site at www.yourlibrary.ca/goodbooks/.