Publication Date: March 21, 2013
In Evergreen Girl by Sybil Powell, Fran is the black sheep of the family. Since the day of her birth, her mother has hated her for not being a boy and she has never measured up to her older sister Becky. When Fran’s mother kicks her out of the family home, she must make her way in the world. And, she makes her way in spectacular style until she realizes one day that sometimes works satisfaction isn’t enough. Follow Fran on the adventure she calls life in Evergreen Girl (Volume 1).
The author’s representative gifted me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
Evergreen Girl is a story of a life rather than the story of an event. Fran’s mother is abusive though the author offhandedly mentions a possible mental illness at one point for which the character will not seek help. Toward the end of the character’s storyline, dementia is mentioned. The mother was written as curt, critical and degrading. The older sister was the golden goose and Fran was the ugly duckling whose successes were “showing off” in the eyes of their mother and whose every day was a failure. The father, much in the style of Hyacinth and Richard Bucket (Bouquet, as she prefers) was ineffectual and unwilling to push his point to his wife. That Fran is competent and secure to the superheroish levels belies belief. It is a credit to the author that Becky, seen as the perfect one, acts as a foil for Fran. She can’t understand why her mother and sister can’t put their differences aside for her sake. That her mother is mentally ill and her sister done with taking abuse doesn’t factor into her picture. She has never walked in the shoes of the child never wanted.
The plot is invested with sudden stops and starts. Fran is kicked out. Sorted. Fran has a difficulty. Sorted. Each plot difficulty gets a moment of focus and then it’s gone like a wisp of smoke. I did think because of the many attitudes the mother had, the things she said and the attitude of the characters toward homosexuality (until Fran actually gets to know a gay character) that the story was historically set. My mind was placing the narrative in the 1960s. It came as a surprise to note that one of the acts in the hotel where Fran works was a Westlife tribute band, an Irish boy-band formed in 1998 by music producer Simon Cowell, placing the story firmly in the present.
The story is set in England and the language of the narrative reflects that. American audiences should easily adapt, in this age of BBC America, to references of going to the “chippy” and spellings that might seem foreign to our differently conditioned eyes. This is a novel written to be plainly understood on an international level.
So did Tammy Dewhirst like this novel? I did. It wasn’t my favorite novel I’ve read all year but it was solidly constructed, if a bit, this thing happens and then this thing happens and then this thing happens. I certainly liked it much better after Fran’s mother left the storyline. She was a grating character and simply hard to read for someone with a soft heart. I wanted Fran’s father to make her get help but that was not to be.
If you like dramatic saga like pieces, Evergreen Girl is a good novel for you.
If Evergreen Girl by Sybil Powell sounds like a book for you, read an excerpt and buy on