Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Gail Godwin, 1999 Ballantine Books

Evensong book cover

You probably don’t recall this, but I’ve included this book on more than one of my “Nightstand” posts as a book I am about to read, am reading, have stopped reading and need to start again, etc.  I think I’ve had it on my proverbial nightstand for about two years.

I finished the book  half an hour ago, and while I won’t provide any spoilers, the timing of completion was uncannily in sync with the timing of significant events in my own life.  The events aren’t similar at all, but calendar-wise there are some interesting parallels. Therefore, it’s tempting for me, with my metaphysical bent, to declare I didn’t finish it two years ago because I was meant to read it now.  Honestly though – it’s just that the book has an exceedingly slow initial trajectory and requires strong intent to get into one’s reading groove.

This novel is the first-person narrative of Episcopal priest Margaret Bonner as she deals with varying levels of strife within her family, her congregation, and her community in a small Smoky Mountain town.  The third Millennium is nearly upon the residents of High Balsam, and its advent (during Advent, actually) brings life-changing events for everyone – but especially for Margaret, her husband Adrian, and the newly arrived quasi-family members who share their home.  I was struck by two things:

  • Almost every character had a British accent in my head, until I had finished at least half of the book. I think this is due in part to Godwin’s writing style.  Example: Margaret’s husband Adrian calls her a “stubborn girl.”  How British.  Also, their names are Margaret and Adrian.  One is almost required to speak those names as the queen would pronounce them.
  • I noted similarities in character between Margaret Bonner and the Reverend Merrily Watkins, protagonist of Phil Rickman’s series about a British priest and exorcist. Both women are remarkably unguarded and willing to appear vulnerable.  The two characters inhabit vastly different worlds, and neither author is a priest, unless I’ve missed something.  How interesting that they have created characters with such similarities.  (This could also be why I gave everyone an accent while I was reading.)