WINNER OF THE 2018 ROGERS WRITERS' TRUST FICTION PRIZE • WINNER OF THE 2019 CITY OF VICTORIA BUTLER BOOK PRIZE • A 2018 KIRKUS BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR • A GLOBE AND MAIL BEST BOOK OF 2018 • A TORONTO STAR TOP TEN BOOK OF THE YEAR • A WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FAVOURITE BOOK OF THE YEAR • A QUILL & QUIRE BEST BOOK OF 2018
Inspired by the author’s family history, this forthright love story unflinchingly portrays the trials and tensions of a lifelong marriage.
Born between the wars on a working-class street in London, Harry Miles wins a scholarship to an exclusive school and with it a chance to escape his station. Instead he falls in love with poetry, and though his teachers encourage him to attend university, he’s tired of scholarship’s dull routines. He takes an entry-level job and spends his free time among the poetry volumes at Battersea Public Library
One afternoon on his way up the stairs, Harry encounters the enigmatic Evelyn Hill. The daughter of an alcoholic layabout, the young woman chafes against the idea of marriage—but during a summer spent wandering the commons and taking in plays with Harry, their relationship begins to bloom in the shadow of the Second World War. Before they know it, Harry is headed into battle and the couple faces the first of many challenges in what will become a lifetime spent together.
Drawing on original wartime letters written by the author’s father, Dear Evelyn reckons with the shifting tides of marriage, exploring how two people shape one another over the course of a lifetime. This compelling account that will leave its mark on any reader who has ever loved.
Praise for Dear Evelyn
“Kathy Page's Dear Evelyn is a novel in the shape of a life. ..[true] to most human experiences of love. ..Page has laid bare the lives of her characters, making no claim to their significance to anyone but each other, and in doing so has demonstrated that the ordinary is infinitely precious. ” —Times Literary Supplement Quietly hums with emotional charge. The war years, with Harry fighting in North Africa and Evelyn struggling with a young child at home, are especially vivid, but this watchful, empathetic chronicle retains sensitivity through the less obviously eventful decades of home-building and child-rearing. ...Page's watchful and very British tale remains devoted to both and forgiving to the end. A searching, and touching, depiction of the places where married lives merge and the places where they never do. ” —Kirkus (starred review) “Kathy Page’s Dear Evelyn tells the tender and unsettling story of working-class Londoner Harry Miles and the ambitious Evelyn Hill who fall in love as the world around them goes to war. What initially begins as a familiar wartime love story morphs into a startling tale of time’s impact on love and family, as well as one’s complex search for personal meaning and truth. By integrating themes that are universally understood by readers and skillfully crafting endearing characters that surprise and delight, Page has created a poignant literary work of art. The result is a timeless page-turning masterpiece. ” —Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize jury citation “Personal and intimate in focus, preoccupied with the minutiae of love and the domestic. What this painstaking and painful account of a marriage – from passionate beginning to resentful, grubby end – relies on, as much as its period detail, is its precise ruminations on the nature of affection and resentment, and on how love can persist in the face of cruelty. ..This becomes a novel of sadness about love and its waste, and about the humiliation of aging. It made me cry my eyes out. " —Globe and Mail “No work of fiction has ever moved me to tears. These pages so emotionally swept me away that, at one particularly heartbreaking point, the book felt so alive that it might wound me, and I launched the thing across the room. Dear Evelyn trembles with what Walter Benjamin might call an “aura” of authenticity, deeply felt and rooted in the author’s obvious love for literature and her family. The result is a profoundly moving novel that captures the deep melancholy and fundamental loneliness of the human condition with startling emotional acuity. ” —Literary Review of Canada “A love story, a coming-of-age story, and a brilliantly evocative sketch of Britain in the 20th century. ..[a] measured, intelligent novel. ” —The Guardian “Page’s finely wrought story – by turns tender, acid, and poignant – reminds us that marriage is a condition as infinitely variable as the individuals who enter into it. ..gains dimension and complexity as additional details accumulate through Page’s deft use of flashbacks and prolepsis; her precise and graceful prose gives the emerging picture nuance and shading. ..Page’s touching novel makes the ordinary extraordinary. ” —Quill & Quire (starred review) “An ambitious, and highly literary, historical fiction outing. ..The writing is remarkable, masterfully weaving together the personal and the political. The backdrop of global conflict infuses the story with urgency, drama, and the exotic appeal of foreign travel, while the intimate manoeuverings of the characters oscillate between tenderness and profound despair. ” —Toronto Star
“A smartly written portrait of a marriage that is true to life, has depth and detail, and is sometimes sweet and sometimes painful. ..the characters linger long afterwards and are likely to leave readers with either a tear in their eye or a lump in the throat. ” —Winnipeg Free Press
“The detail, the nuance, and the vitality of the scenes, while disconcerting, is also supremely detailed but never overwhelming with pages of minutia. ..Harry and Evelyn come together for an instant, repel one another over this or that, strive to find their better selves and their compassion and their once rich love; and then, with a harsh word or passing mood, they’re back to marital warfare. It’s a heartbreaking depiction, if only because it’s so enduring: these two are bound by family, by obligation, by history, and even by a steady if off-kilter and declining love. ” —Vancouver Sun
“Page charts the emotional shifts that take place over the course of their marriage, from first flush of love to old age, with subtlety and sensitivity. ” —Booklist
“Though a familiar tale, it’s sharply drawn and told with an alertness to cliche . ..[T]he concluding scenes, while sadly inevitable, are quietly devastating. ” —Daily Mail Online
“I know of no contemporary writer who deals so convincingly with love. Page consistently dramatizes the ways in which the feelings of intimate couples are puzzling mixtures of hope, lust, genuine caring, resentment, politics, and much else. ..ambitious and profoundly resonant. ” —Ormsby Review
“Dear Evelyn has a wonderful, effortless sweep. ..Page is able to contain a century; two wars; two fully realized, flawed and complicated people; a rich and tumultuous marriage; so much love; and the pride, rage and resentment that keeps so much from ever being properly expressed. ” —Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This
“[Page] has flown largely under the radar of publishing journalism while also writing damned good books. ..Page is a magician at evoking a sense of past-ness, and her characterisation is extraordinarily skillful and tender: both Evelyn and her husband Harry can be extremely difficult, but the reader understands and feels for them both. Exceptional work. ” —Elle Thinks
“A beautifully written story about a long marriage with a heart-tugging ending. ” —Literary Hoarders
“A richly textured story that feels authentic to each period, without ever getting bogged down in too many details or historical facts . .. Relayed with compassion, and incisive writing. ” —Gulf Islands Driftwood
“A novel that will fill your heart, and break it, too. ” —The Parry Sound
Praise for Kathy Page
“Page. ..runs circles around authors who work twice as hard for half the reward. .. One of the most talented short-story writers working today delivered yet another knockout collection that is both darkly funny and terribly sad. ” —Globe and Mail “A moving novel about knowledge, self-awareness and the power of words, set in the purgatory of prison. This young man’s life demands our attention and refuses to let go. ” —Kirkus (starred review) “Like children at a sleepover, tucked beneath shared covers, the stories whisper to one another, providing a thematic richness to the book that far outstrips its page count. ” —The Walrus “Tight, strange, nifty stories. ” —Margaret Atwood “Her fiction is sensuous and verdant, grafting lyrical prose onto stories and situations that appear almost as legends. ” —National Post “Page’s prose is vivid and alive, with nary a scrap of throwaway writing to be found. ” —Publishers Weekly “Alphabet is not just highly readable, but one of the strongest, most eloquent, most tightly constructed novels of the year…It is a measure of the quiet artistry of Alphabet that, out of material that would have been at home in the blackest of black comedies, Kathy Page has celebrated, with rare deftness, the resilience of the human heart. ” —Sunday Telegraph “A complex book, and splendidly written, Alphabet is an intensely compelling reading experience that speaks to the power of words and the significance of language in all its dangerous subtleties. ” —The Edmonton Journal One of our most daring writers … If you don’t know Page’s work yet, she’s a find. ” —Caroline Adderson “Kathy Page is a massive talent. ” —Barbara Gowdy “One of the most complex characters I’ve ever met in a novel. ” —Victoria Times Colonist “Emotionally resonant, poignant examinations of life and love and – most piercingly – death… Page is a highly skilled miniaturist, capable of pulling off powerful effects by way of simple (though never simplistic) prose and a keen eye for human fallibility and ambiguity. ” —Quill & Quire
"A vivid portrayal. ..mesmerizing. [Page] writes with compassion, tenderness and a deep intelligence. " —Prairie Fire