Today I’m absolutely thrilled to share my review for this stunning debut novel on my book blog today. Thank you to Jess Barratt at Scribner, a Simon and Schuster UK imprint, for this gorgeous proof copy – my thoughts about the book are all my own and not influenced by the gift. I will be treating myself to a hardback copy of the book, which will now include a sticker to confirm that this has been picked as a Radio 2 Book Club book.
Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she become?
The fastest milk bottle-delivery girl in East Yorkshire, Evie is tall as a tree and hot as the desert sand. She dreams of an independent life lived under the bright lights of London (or Leeds). The two posters of Adam Faith on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’) offer wise counsel about a future beyond rural East Yorkshire. Her role models are Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen. But, before she can decide on a career, she must first deal with the malign presence of her future step-mother, the manipulative and money-grubbing Christine.
If Evie can rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink and over-perfumed clutches, and save the farmhouse from being sold off then maybe she can move on with her own life and finally work out exactly who it is she is meant to be.
Moving, inventive and richly comic, The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is the most joyful debut novel of the year and the best thing to have come out of Yorkshire since Wensleydale cheese.
As a Yorkshire lass, who was born in Sheffield, grew up in Rotherham, and attended University in Huddersfield and Leeds, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to read this book early – described as the ‘best thing to come out of Yorkshire since Wensleydale cheese’. So did it live up to the claim?
The book starts with an introduction to Evie, who has just finished her last ‘O’ level exam (GCSE equivalent to those of you younger than 40) and is driving her dad’s MG. By page 5, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as Evie saw old Mr Hughes – this has to be the most unusual start to a book I’ve ever read – please don’t eat or drink whilst reading the first chapter.
I’m not going to give a round up of what happens in the story – I am going to tell you is why you should buy it. I loved the way the characters developed, how Evie deals with the prospect of having Christine as a step mum and helps her neighbours reconnect. This is a book that also made me realise how much life has changed for the young people of today in terms of career opportunities and life choices.
This year has been a challenging year for many of us with the anxiety of a global pandemic, and this book was a chance to escape and to laugh out loud. My mum would have been slightly older than Evie and I’m much younger than Evie, but lots of the Yorkshire phrases and characters seemed so familiar from my own experiences and stories from my mum. I read the Adrian Mole books back in the day (and watched the TV series) and this is so much funnier.
In addition to the humour, the attention to detail was superb – the descriptions of rooms, clothes, music and food etc. My favourite chapters included a visit to the Royal Beverly hotel (chapter 5), the village fete (chapter 12), a trip to Leeds with Caroline (chapter 14) and starting work at the hairdressers (chapter 16), all building up nicely to the finale.
This is a stunning debut novel and I’m pleased to hear that another novel is underway. After reading the novel, I’ve enjoyed discovering the Betty’s website and the music of Adam Faith (he was an actor in my day). I’m happy to confirm that this book is better than Wensleydale cheese (and I do love a good piece of Wensleydale with cranberries). My recommendation is to order the book and some Fat Rascals from Betty’s, find a comfortable chair, turn off your phone and enjoy revisiting the summer of 1962 with Evie. This is currently my favourite book of 2020.
Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire (the flat part not the Brontë part). He comes from farming stock and spent an idyllic childhood surrounded by horses, cows, bicycles, and cheap ice-cream. His father, a York City and Halifax Town footballer, has never forgiven him for getting on the school rugby team but not getting anywhere near the school football team.
Matson now lives in London, where he is a design historian and academic writing tutor at the V&A, Imperial College and the Royal College of Art. Previously, he talked his way into various jobs at universities and museums around the world; he has also worked on Camden Market, appeared in an Italian TV commercial and been a pronunciation coach for Catalan opera singers. He gets back to Yorkshire as much as possible, mainly to see family and friends but also to get a reasonably-priced haircut.
He has always loved telling stories and, after writing academically about beaded flapper dresses and World War 2 glow-in-the-dark fascinators, he decided to enrol on the Faber Academy ‘Writing A Novel’ course. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is his first novel.
Matson has also put a playlist together for the book – to be found at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4LzC95vqQAuZMKJ2WZtF5i?si=Vu9Tl88DT9yMx5kt0UBDWQ