Honor and Evie by Susannah Bates

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Honor and Evie by Susannah Bates

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: An undemanding but enjoyable novel about two cousins, Honor and Evie, who are best friends despite different temperaments and backgrounds. As they grow up, their interests diverge and tensions arise, and their friendship is threatened.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 528 Date: March 2007
Publisher: Arrow
ISBN: 978-0099445432

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This is the story of two cousins. Honor is the daughter of wealthy parents, given every advantage in life. Her temperament is dutiful and willing to please, she is academic in an unassuming way, and she has the ability to be diplomatic in any circumstances. So her cousin Evie is an unlikely best friend. Evie's parents are not well-off; her father is a struggling artist, and Evie is something of a rebel. Honor's father has generously provided expensive education and holidays for Evie, but she is not academic; she fails her exams, and never minces words when she doesn't like somebody.

At eighteen, Honor and Evie are very close, sharing each other's lives as much as possible despite their differing circumstances. But when Honor goes to Oxford University, and Evie takes a job as a waitress in a dumpy café, they inevitably find that their interests diverge. And when Evie falls in love with someone who finds Honor more attractive, it seems as if their friendship is threatened.

Most of the book is about the girls' lives in their early twenties, as Honor takes the predictable path of marriage to someone sensible, and Evie discovers that she's really a career girl, once she finds a more suitable path for her abilities than waitressing.

In many ways, this is exactly my kind of book. The characters are well-drawn and sympathetic, there's not too much leaping about of viewpoint, and there are a few weightier issues explored, including questions about career vs marriage, the advantages (or otherwise) of wealth, and a realistic portrayal of someone abusing alchohol and drugs.

It's not a heavy or exciting read; there's no suspense or fast action, and really no villains, but then that's a plus from my perspective. The author does a good job of portraying the good and bad sides of all characters, including the minor ones. Honor's mother Xandra seems slightly caricatured at first, a perfectionist with an eye for beauty (and for public approval). But gradually she emerges as a real person with feelings that run deep, and by the end I appreciated her much more.

It isn't a deeply emotive book, either; perhaps it's not meant to be. I often wondered what would happen or how a situation would be resolved, but there was nothing to make tears come to my eyes, nor was there any character I identified with completely. There were one or two places where I skimmed a little: mainly discussions about business, journalism and finances. I'm sure they were well-researched, probably intended to flesh out the lives of the characters, but the details seemed a little contrived at times. This didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the book - I'm good at skimming - but it did make it easy to put down at times. Having said that, it only took me about four days to read over 500 pages. I won't be pondering it in weeks to come, but I enjoyed it and will no doubt re-read it again in a few years.

Thanks to the publishers for sending it.

Two other books about girls who are different but become close friends, are Things to Make and Mend by Ruth Thomas and Charlotte Bingham's Belgravia.

Buy Honor and Evie by Susannah Bates at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Honor and Evie by Susannah Bates at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Honor and Evie by Susannah Bates at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Honor and Evie by Susannah Bates at Amazon.com.

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