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Evening Paperback – September 7, 1999

3.5 out of 5 stars 148 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As Ann Lord lies on her deathbed, her daughter delivers a balsam pillow from the attic. At first the ailing woman is confused, but suddenly the scent reminds her of the "wild tumult" she experienced 40 years earlier:
Something stole into her as she walked in the dark, a dream she'd had long ago. The air was so black she was unable to see her arms, it was a warm summer night. Above her she could make out the dark line of the tops of spruce trees and a sky lit with stars. She felt the warm tar through the soles of her shoes. The boy beside her took her hand.
In the porous world between conscious and unconscious the protagonist of Evening revisits the great passions of her life, along with its considerable disappointments. The boy in the dark remains the fixed point--not so much because he is the most important man in her life, but because of the untapped possibilities he represents. Meanwhile, friends and relations come to sit by Ann Lord's side as she veers between clarity and feverish recollection.

In her third novel, Susan Minot takes some new risks--her narrative spanning seven decades of memory and her style ranging from Stegneresque particularity to the exquisite abstraction Virginia Woolf perfected in To the Lighthouse. Equal parts memory and desire, fiction and poetry, Evening is a seductive story made more so by the measured pace of details emerging, one by one, like stars. --Cristina Del Sesto --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A dying woman's abiding passion for a lover she met in her 20s propels this eloquent third novel by the gifted author of Monkeys and Folly. As 65-year-old cancer patient Ann Grant Lord drifts in and out of a morphine-induced haze, her recollections range back and forth between 1954 and 1994, mulling over the influences that have shaped her life. In particular, she clings to the memory of Harris Arden, the young doctor she met at the wedding of her best friend, Lila Wittenborn, and their brief affair, which he ended to marry another. Resigned to a life without bliss, Ann subsequently sang in cabarets and accumulated husbands, survived motherhood, widowhood and the death of her 12-year-old son but never knew another passion like the one she felt for Harris. With insight and sensitivity, Minot sketches the small daily travails of the deathbed vigils shared by Ann's friends and step-siblings and keeps tension high by skillfully foreshadowing (or back-shadowing) certain of the novel's largest, saddest events, all the while withholding longed-for particulars. The day after the wedding, we eventually learn, the Wittenborns suffered a crushing loss. The juxtaposition of Ann's heartbreak with the more universal tragedy that affected her friend's family accentuates the novel's achingly poignant climax. As the end nears, Ann's drug-induced hallucinations, memories and imagined conversations with Harris all merge into one roiling stream in which Minot's flair for dramatization comes to the fore, rendering her heroine's experience of love at first sight plausible and enviable. Minot has created in Ann a woman whose ardent past allows her to face death while savoring the exhilaration that marked her full and passionate life. Editor, Jordan Pavlin; agent, Georges Borchardt; Random House audio.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Later Printing edition (September 7, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375700269
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375700262
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #835,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
After spending a couple of years on my bookshelf, I was finally tempted to read this novel. Evening is unlike anything I've ever read before. The prose is not clear-cut, with ramblings and confusion throughout the entire novel, but once readers get into the flow of the story, this morphine-induced reality-versus-fantasy begins to take shape. Evening tells the story of Ann Lord, a 65-year-old cancer patient on the verge of death. Family and friends take vigil at her bedside, and through the haze and confusion of Ann's heavily sedated mind are many ramblings about unconnected things, short memories that pass through in an instant then quickly dissolve. Only one thing remains sharp in Ann's mind: the weekend she spent at her best friend's wedding and the man she met there with whom she fell in love. Harris Arden was not just a weekend fling, he became the pivotal moment in Ann's life from which love, loss, hope and reality begin. Susan Minot's stunning, eloquent prose writes of a love story between Ann and Harris; a life story involving Ann's three husbands and her five children; and a death story of the final moments of a woman's life and those things that can never be left behind. Choppy at times, confusing at others, but this unique writing style creates an authentic other world where consciousness slips between reality and dreams. Excellent and powerful; a vivid portrayal of the end of a life.
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By A Customer on July 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Although Minot's style of writing takes some getting used to, it is well-suited to the morphine-induced deathbed conversations. It evokes a hazy, confused and dreamlike atmosphere. The book disappoints, however, because it is impossible to feel anything substantive towards any of the characters. Most -- particulary Ann and her lover, Arden -- come across as shallow, selfish and utterly self-absorbed. Was the real tragedy of Ann's life that she didn't get to spend it with the only man she ever "loved," or rather that she didn't truly love anyone but herself? She treated the husbands and children in her life with indifference and occasional annoyance. She only mentions in passing the death of her own son. Instead she focuses on a weekend of sex with a stranger as the high point of her life -- not marriage, not childbirth, not her families or other experiences. If that is not a life wasted, then I don't know what is! The only thing that saves this novel is the beautiful but difficult dreamlike prose, and the desire of the reader to get to the REAL tragedy or love of Ann's life, which never materializes.
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Format: Paperback
Susan Minot's "Evening" is like no other book I have every read. It is full of beautiful prose, lovely poetry. As I read about Ann's lost youth, I felt an overwhelming sadness of loss, and also a great emotional happiness, thinking about my own youth.
I am guessing that those who gave the book low reviews are young. You must be "of a certain age" to connect with this book. I content you must be old enough to have grown children, to remember another simpler era of your youth, and to have fond and not-so-fond memories of special people who came into and out of your life. I'm close to 60 and found Ann's age (65) unnerving, as I thought of my own mortality.

There are books that touch us because we are close to them, and some that we're not ready to read yet. For those who didn't like the book, wait a few years and try again.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel baffles me. I instinctively gave it 3 stars for craft alone; Minot writes beautifully and her ambitious, omniscient rendering of a dying older woman's thoughts is credible and compelling. She does an extraordinary job of shifting between and blending past and present, memory and action. Minot eases Death in early and brings him softly, romantically along to her inevitable final scene.
That said, I withhold two stars for the traits that hold this novel back. First, Minot has chosen to tread familiar turf-- the lives and loves of charming, drunken, clannish, wealthy New Englanders. The characters are largely as wispy and as WASPy as her Monkeys crowd. In fact, aside from Ann Grant and her one true love, Harris Arden, we are treated to a razor thin two-dimensionality. In the first 75 pages Minot introduces a bewildering array of Lilas and Margies and Buddys and Lizzies and Gigis and on and on, some dead, some alive, all dating and marrying and cavorting their vapid lives away. And though the types may be Cheeveresque, Minot's inability here to hook the reader on this overstock of characters is not. Indeed, by the time one of these boys dies two hundred pages in--in one of the novel's Central Events--I could care less.
Conversely, the blandness of these characters makes it relatively easy for Minot to build up her towering central "love" story. But *is* it a love story? Through all the minutiae of the relationship Minot dredges from Grant's mind I was struck that it is far more a story of lust than love. We are treated to a very physical description of what is essentially a weekend fling. Ann and Harris barely talk; they are too busy catching one another's eye and getting it on.
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