Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Evvie: Review

Welcome to the Roaring Twenties in Chicago. Short skirts and shingled hair. Free love and bathtub gin. A time when young women were testing new-found freedoms in love, at work, and at the voting booth. Meet Evvie and Louise. Two women who have been friends since they were girls. They have shared secrets, sleepovers, clothes, their ups and downs with men, a studio apartment...everything. Well, everything until Evvie falls in love. Suddenly, she's secretive. She won't tell Louise who the mystery man is. And Evvie feels an air of danger surrounding her friend. She suspects she knows the lover's identity and fears that Evvie has gotten herself mixed up with the wrong sort of man. And, when Evvie is found murdered on Labor Day weekend, it would seem that Louise's fears were justified. The newspapers cry scandal and dig up all the dirt on Evvie that they can....and no one, not even those who knew the women best, can believe that Louise really doesn't know who the mysterious lover is.

Vera Caspary has such a way with words. I absolutely loved Laura when I read it (and later watched the movie). Evvie is just as well-written. This is an excellent snapshot of life in the 1920s--showing how young women were stretching their wings and becoming more financially independent. The friendship between the two girls is spot on and the historical details are finely drawn. Everything sails along until the denouement....that, I'm afraid, is a bit of a let-down. I had a much different scenario in mind...one a little more full of passion to match Evvie's mystery love affair. Not that the ending doesn't work. It does. Just not quite the way I expected.

Still, a fine read. Very absorbing in period detail and a very interesting character study of Evvie and Louise and the men who love them. Four stars...a better ending would have pushed it into five star territory.

A few choice quotes:

[Louise on diaries]
Such jottings, illegible and often untranslatable, give structure and sequence to the jumble of facts and impressions stored in a disorderly memory. Much, of course, was falsely observed and has been deformed by time. In the end only specters remain. Masked and distorted they creep out to mock at vanity.

...it was the sum of our high spirits, the combination of mood and personality that gave the flavor of humor, the sense of wild joy. There was no memorable remark yet every word seemed witty. The evening seemed to have been born of itself and to flower without reason. We might plan repetition, eat the same foods, drink wine of the same vintage, hear the same music, but there would never be another like this night, this hour, this moment.

Smoke and dimness magnified the throb of jazz. This cavern was all music, all beat and brass with an occasional piano solo as dramatic as silence.

This was the season of obsession. Passionate infection caught us in all its raging fever.

1 comment:

J F Norris said...

I have multiple copies of LAURA and have never read it. Time to rectify that this year. It is hands down my favorite crime movie of all time. I'm sure I'd enjoy the book - especially its multiple narrative structure. Also I have Caspary's first novel about a dancer in Chicago (no crime or mystery at all) which has a very interesting binding: multi-colored crepe paper covered boards. I've only read portions of that when I was cataloging it for a sale. No takers -so it's now on a book shelf simply because of the book itself.

Caspary never thought of herself as a mystery writer, but a novelist who sometimes wrote about crime. She may have been the first writer to spurn the "mystery writer" label because it was viewed as something insulting.