“Evensong” by Gail Godwin
I know that quotes on book jackets are designed to lure me to read a book. They’re supposed to ignite my imagination and lead me to think that if I don’t pick up this specific book RIGHT NOW I’ll die unhappy and alone, never having known the pure power of literature.
It’s marketing. I get it.
That said, sometimes the folks putting said quotes together just get a little too carried away.
Here’s a brief sampling of the book jacket and inside pages of quotes for Gail Godwin’s “Evensong”:
“Evensong reawakened in these weary eyeballs the joy of reading.” – USAToday
“Smashing one of the strangest taboos in American literature, Godwin may have finally brought religion back from the wilderness and made it a safe subject for literary fiction.” – The Christian Science Monitor
“Evensong is a book so subtly bold and poignant it will bring readers unawares to their knees…” – Jacquelyn Mitchard
Now, nothing against Ms. Godwin, but really? Calm down. After quotes like that, if the book doesn’t cause me to consider Godwin some sort of literary prophet, I’m going to be disappointed.
I prefer my quotes like this one, from Fannie Flagg:
“Godwin is one of the very best of southern novelists. I loved this book and its wonderful characters.”
There. That’s all I really need.
Unfortunately, I don’t agree; I didn’t love the book or it’s characters.
Here’s where I admit that I didn’t actually finish reading “Evensong.” I stopped around the 200 (of 400) page mark when I suddenly realized that, though it’s not a bad book, I just simply didn’t care about what was going to happen. Normally, I don’t like leaving books unfinished, but (with a new baby) my reading time is limited and spending a few more days on a book I didn’t care about isn’t really an option.
The plot of “Evensong” concerns pastor Margaret Bonner, her husband Adrian, and three other people who wind themselves into the Bonner’s lives; a mysterious elderly monk, a teenage punk, and a pushy woman on a quest to lead a march for Jesus. There’s an awful lot of people talking about their feelings and their pasts, but – at least at the 200 page mark – nothing really happens. Margaret is likable enough, and Godwin writes pretty well, but the whole affair is pretty drawn out and I’m fine not knowing what happens in the end.
Maybe it’s your cup of tea. It just wasn’t mine.
(For a great review, read Claire Messaud’s piece from the NYTimes.)