This is a realist novel and a novel about ghosts; an immigrant novel about what it means to return home; a novel of women that may actually be a novel about men ... Each character here is richly and deeply drawn, with histories and personalities so fully realized that it’s a pleasure to get to know them ... Evans’s writing stuns, showcasing a flair that turns even dying into poetry ... The most brilliant element of the novel comes at the close of the book, where the story ends, and then ends again. I won’t spoil it by revealing more.
The novel is a collection of characters and incidents that only barely relate to one another, much like the two fires reported in its opening pages. No event — past or impending — or person or setting can lay claim to the novel’s center of gravity, a multiplicity with potential that, as executed, resembles inattention ... Ambitious but suffers from disinterest in its own moving parts, including the tides of recent history within which it is conspicuously placed.
Enticing ... The narrative expands outwards; it whirls into the lives and perspectives of adjacent characters, sometimes lending the novel the feel of a collection of linked short stories ... Evans records the interiorities of her characters and their lives with acutely realistic detail. Realism, of course, doesn’t mean dullness ... There is sometimes so much detail and rich depth that our eponymous protagonist vanishes ... Sweeping ... Generous.
Does the text mirror too closely the emotional and spiritual turmoil experienced by its large cast? Yes, and there’s no denying either its meandering pace ... The sheer vitality of Evans’s dynamic prose does much to smooth over these imperfections. At once associative, poetic – florid on occasion – but girded by inquisitive precision, it renders almost hypnotic her constant toggling between the prosaic and the metaphysical. There are some deft set pieces too, dramatising intimacy’s most finely nuanced dynamics.
Evans’s writing is indeed strong: subtle but grounded, lyrical yet accessible. Her characters feel real, their interactions — particularly that tense space where the political and domestic meet — nuanced. There are overarching themes of home, belonging, loss and racial politics ... Evans is good at marital dynamics, tracing the shifts of love and loathing, itemising the peccadilloes that are iceberg tips, the disconnect and desire. One of the most interesting things about her writing, though, is its streak of intuitive, supernatural oddity ... This novel can be read as a stand-alone — of course it can — but why would you? Far better to read Ordinary People first, then come to this informed and ready.
There is enough earthy humour to offset the earnestness in Diana Evans’s ambitious tale of a family in contemporary London ... It also includes sex and love and Portuguese pool parties; gossipy get-togethers celebrating Harry and Meghan’s wedding; and a potentially career-ending appearance in a Catford panto ... Beautifully observed ... Evans also has an exquisite turn of phrase.
This is a knowingly and at times devastatingly elegiac novel. The characters, so richly and plausibly drawn, are in mourning for their loved ones, for the families wiped out by Grenfell, for the youth they’re leaving behind them ... Diana Evans is more than up to the task: through the delicacy of her prose, the deftness of her dialogue and the clarity of her observations, she manages to create a novel that measures up to life.
Evans’ elegiac writing captures the intricacies of volatile relationship dynamics with a stinging turn of phrase ... The wealth of characters and their tangential plotlines can be confusing but once you settle into the rhythm, the payoff is worthwhile.
Vibrant ... Broad in range, vivid in detail, alight often with eloquent language ... Sprawling but always engaging, the novel’s cast is filled with rounded individuals, their problems and options as Black, middle-class Londoners showcased at work and play and contemplation, with humor and empathy. A baggy, striking, perceptive slice of intergenerational life.