Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she become?
The fastest milk bottle-delivery girl in East Yorkshire, Evie is tall as a tree and hot as the desert sand. She dreams of an independent life lived under the bright lights of London (or Leeds). The two posters of Adam Faith on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’) offer wise counsel about a future beyond rural East Yorkshire. Her role models are Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen. But, before she can decide on a career, she must first deal with the malign presence of her future step-mother, the manipulative and money-grubbing Christine.
If Evie can rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink and over-perfumed clutches, and save the farmhouse from being sold off then maybe she can move on with her own life and finally work out exactly who it is she is meant to be.
Moving, inventive and richly comic, The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is the most joyful debut novel of the year and the best thing to have come out of Yorkshire since Wensleydale cheese.
This wonderful debut novel is a breath of fresh air, and the perfect antidote to all the 2020 madness. I am not going to write a long review, because some books lodge themselves firmly in my heart and not my head, and simply deserve to be shouted about as an absolute joy. In a way, I wish I had read this book sooner, but actually, Evie came to me at the perfect time, and reading this novel felt like a warm hug from a friend at a time when warm hugs are hard to come by/legally prohibited.
The book reminded me of Adrian Mole, in that the young protagonist feels so incredibly real that I completely forgot that she was fictional. But of course, Evie is very different from Adrian. Evie ROCKS. She is, in terms of likeability, probably my favourite fictional character that I have met this year. She is such a joyous presence on the page – her voice is authentic, hilarious, realistic despite the crazy circumstances she finds herself in, and, although she is far from annoyingly perfect, she seems to me to represent a really lovely way to live and to be. I honestly think Matson Taylor has created a character whose ability to learn and to change and to grow up without losing the best of childlike joy and innocence is a lesson to us all. We should all try to be a bit more like Evie!
The story itself is funny, poignant, and well-written. The period detail is lovely (I keep using that word because it is such an Evie word!) and despite Taylor’s light, humorous touch, there are plenty of truly moving moments. And also lots of drama, which is a huge amount of fun! The supporting characters are a fabulously eccentric bunch, and I loved – or loved to hate – them all.
I think what I loved most about this book was the way in which it shows, in a completely non-preachy way, how to accept imperfections or disappointments without letting them curb your enthusiasm for life. Life is messy, it is imperfect: sad, crazy, mad, bad, weird stuff is always going to happen, but there is always joy and humour to be found in between.
I am absolutely thrilled to hear that an Evie sequel may be on the way – I would follow her for many, many more books!
The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor is published by Scribner UK and is available to purchase here.