Cold Comfort Farm meets Adrian Mole in the funniest debut novel of the year.
Yorkshire, the summer of 1962. Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she become?
Up until now, Evie’s life has been nothing special: a patchwork of school, Girl Guides, cows, milk deliveries, lost mothers and village fetes. But, inspired by her idols (Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen), she dreams of a world far away from rural East Yorkshire, a world of glamour lived under the bright lights of London (or Leeds).
Standing in the way of these dreams, though, is Christine, Evie’s soon to
be stepmother, a manipulative and money grubbing schemer who is
lining Evie up for a life of shampoo and-set drudgery at the local salon.
Luckily, Evie is not alone. With the help of a few friends, and the wise counsel of the two Adam Faith posters on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’), Evie comes up with a plan to rescue her bereaved father,
Arthur, from Christine’s pink and over-perfumed clutches, and save their beloved farmhouse from being sold off. She will need a little luck, a dash of charm and a big dollop of Yorkshire magic if she is to succeed, but in the process she may just discover who exactly she is meant to be.
What a way to meet Evie Epworth as she drove her father’s MG with milk bottles clattering away on the passenger seat before disaster struck in the most bizarre and original manner. It was the start of a startlingly brilliant novel that had so many laugh out loud moments I lost count.
Evie, was just superb, the young Yorkshire teenager, stuck in the middle of her Father and new girlfriend, Christine, as she attempted to navigate between finding her own path in life and expunging money grabber Christine from their home.
I loved her naivety, her hankering for something more than the hairdressing job Christine acquired for her, and her unending loyalty to those around her. Her friendship with, neighbour Mrs Scott-Pym, was wonderfully tender and sweet, the Granny or mother figure she never had, their plotting and conspiring to rid Evie of Christine came with hilarious results, with just a tinge of seriousness underneath. The seriousness was a young girl with no direction, no role model to look upto, who took a determined stand to fight, with just a little help, to reclaim her father and the life she was destined to lead. I admired how Matson was able to delve into her mind, to write with such assurance from a female point of view,.
Christine, was the nightmare you never seemed to be rid of and Matson didn’t hold back on his descriptions of her myriad of fluffy pink and truly awful outfits that conjured up some fabulously wonderful images. Her unerring desire for money and material possessions were definitely not her most endearing features and I think you would have had to have dug pretty deep to find any. She was the real comedy turn of the novel, as you cringed with embarrassment at her and her mother’s hilarious antics.
What was so wonderful about Matson’s narrative was his ability to capture the essence of the 1960’s, of a world on the brink of change. He caught the fashion, the sounds, the Beatles, the evolving attitudes of society, as women emerged from their kitchens’s, took up careers and became more independent.
Matson didn’t forget about the past, the story of Evie’s dead mother interspersed within the body of the novel, that gave us the background we needed to understand her Father and made you hope all the more for a happy ending.
The ending when it came was gloriously fitting, and I have to admit to being very sad to leave Evie Epworth. I would love to see where her next chapter will take her and what mad hilarious situations and characters she would meet next. A sequel would be just fantastic please Mr Matson!
A brilliant, funny, debut.
I would like to thank Scribner for a copy of The Miseducation of Miss Evie Epworth to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire but now lives in London. He is a
design historian and academic writing tutor and has worked at various universities and museums around the world; he currently teaches at the V&A, Imperial College, and the RCA. He has also worked on Camden Market,
appeared in an Italian TV commercial, and been a pronunciation coach for Catalan opera singers.