|Genre||Novel (264 pp.)|
|Keywords||Aging, Cancer, Death and Dying, Disease and Health, Family Relationships, Freedom, Illness and the Family, Individuality, Love, Memory, Pain, Sexuality, Suffering, Time|
In the fictional present of Evening, Ann Lord is diagnosed with terminal cancer and spends most of her time in her own bed in her house in Cambridge, Mass, drifting in and out of a medicated sleep, cared for by her adult children and various private nurses. In her reveries Ann returns to a weekend some forty years earlier, and re-experiences meeting a young doctor named Harris Arden and finding and losing the only true passion of her life. As Evening moves episodically between present and past, only the reader can see both Ann's dying, nearly motionless body and the hidden, vital world of her memories.
Ironically, while Ann's remembered youth forms a suspenseful plot, full of romance and tragedy, her full adult life seems to have been signally lacking in any of the passion, focus, and vitality that characterized her young womanhood. The best times of her life were literally over when that weekend in the past came to an abrupt and tragic close; and now, as her own life ends, it is this past "best time" that she returns to. Ann's children, friends, and caregivers only see her as a relatively young woman, dying a tragically early and painful death; they never grasp the content or intensity of her inner life, or know the name of the man who meant most to her.
Evening is extraordinary for presenting a woman in her sixties, dying of cancer, as a point-of-view character. Ann's disassociation from her family's experience of her illness, and the urgency with which she returns to the riches of her remembered past as her body is drugged and dying, are as innovative as they are engaging.
At its best, the novel recalls the fiction of Virginia Woolf in its lyricism, distinctive chronological shifts, and concern with the alternating "moments of being" and "cotton-wool of non-being" that for Woolf characterized human experience. The novel falls short, however, in its development of the rest of the family's engagement in Ann's illness.
The relative absence of intensity of Ann's feelings for her children, in comparison to her feelings for the man with whom she might have experienced fulfillment, is part of the novel's valuable iconoclasm: Evening refuses to see a dying woman as primarily a wife and mother, and insists on making us see her as a woman who once had, and now has again, a rich inner life apart from her family responsibilities. The novel is made awkward, however, when the adult children's perspectives are raised as a significant plot thread and then barely developed.
|Place Published||New York|
|Annotated by||Holmes, Martha Stoddard|
|Date of Entry||05/11/99|