THE MIS-EDUCATION OF EVIE EPWORTH by MATSON TAYLOR.
I chose this book because, firstly I like it. I happen to know the author, having met him at a book signing and we have chatted a few times. Matson Taylor is probably one of the loveliest and most friendly people I know. This led to the excitement of having him join the book club via zoom for our first discussion. The book is a great start to any book group, being a seemingly light and funny read, which touches on some more serious issues like the way society has changed in its attitude to women’s choices and expectations; sexuality and gender and parenting and loss.
It has the ‘Cinderella’ ingredients of a great tale. Our heroine, Evie, aged 16, on the cusp of womanhood, her adventures as she finds herself and a there’s a delicious villain in the shape of her wicked stepmother-to-be., Christine. Evie lost her mum at a young age and lives with her father. The 1960’s haven’t quite arrived at her small Yorkshire village, reminding me of Larkin’s poem, Annus MIrabilis, where
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) –
Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.
The group agreed that Matson really captures a convincing voice for a young girl trying to discover and forge an identity and enjoyed the nostalgia. It sparked lively discussion about our different experiences of choices in education and careers, particularly for the women who were educated during the 60’s and even the 50’s. My mum, who is part of the group, remembers boys being encouraged to find a good career, but girls being expected to find ‘pin money’ in a ‘job’ until they married and produced a family. Even in her girls grammar school , she was educated in cookery and sewing, and sex education was one lesson with an unfathomable drawing on the blackboard and a flustered spinster giving an incomprehensible lecture coughing with embarrassment. ‘Women’s things’ were hushed up: men were not allowed in the delivery room of a birth and sanitary towels were sold in brown paper bags under the counter. It all seems a far cry from my own education, where ‘Home Economics was a science and girls did woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing. Still, things hadn’t moved on THAT much in the 80’s and I am glad to see a small improvement these days.
Evie has her mentor in the form of Mrs Scott-Pym and role model in the form of Caroline, although even Mrs SP has been brought up with societal prejudice and shame, and Evie helps to re-unite her with her most important relationship.
I don’t want to give many spoilers- you should read it for yourselves, and you will also find the sequel excellent. We have a vast age range in the DL book club, and it is mixed gender, but we all had something positive to say about the story and the characters. Everyone was surprised by the legendary ‘cow’ scene and we had a great deal of amusement working it how it was possible! (you’d have to be there!)
The real highlight was being joined by Matson, who talked so much that had had to re-join his free zoom session! After such lively banter, everyone fell in love with him, so I have a feeling that he will have made a few more sales of book 2 as well. He is writing a different kind of book right now And book 3 of Evie is ‘in the making’ so much to look forward to from Matson Taylor.
If you want to join the DL book club, members can turn up on Wednesday 19th April from 7.30 and May 17th 7.30. Sign up on the app; bring a non-member friend to sign in with you, or interact with the DL app and FB page. You can also look for my own ‘David Lloyd Book Club’ Facebook group which has 13 members and people beginning to chip in with comments about all things books. It’s an excellent, funny and chatty group – we don’t take ourselves too seriously but enjoy a bit of analytical discussion as well. We also plan to have a Christmas party, naturally.
Many thanks Matson Taylor – you are welcome to zoom in any time.