Discussing Susan Minot’s novel Evening did not change my view. Minot’s language is beautiful and her stream of consciousness narrative promotes attention to the underlying current of a dying memory, however faulty, but her plot has the unrealistic dramatic tone better suited to the movie it later became.
Ann is dying at sixty-five from cancer, and as she slowly falls through to the last stages, with her daughters and son at her bedside, and the trusty nurse who administers regular doses of pain killers, she remembers a weekend when she was twenty-five. As Ann relives the steamy love affair with Harris, a Don Juan secretly engaged to his pregnant fiancee, Ann mourns the loss of her one true love. Minot would have the reader engage in the fantasy that the brief affair with a near stranger matters more than anything else that has happened in her life since then. All of the realistic complications of her life as she goes on to marry (three times) and have children, seem to disappear in the morass of passion. D.H. Lawrence would be proud of Minot’s evocative descriptions, but other authors (George Eliot, Edith Wharton) might question the power of a youthful passion to separate feeling over reason over a lifetime.
As Ann’s past slowly is revealed, her children and others around her speak of her as they know her now. Minot has her main character slip away in the end, secure in her secrets. No one knows her as well as she knows herself.
Have you read the book or seen the movie?