I began my Booker Challenge with the first book from as far back in the shortlist as I could find in the library: Eva Trout by Elizabeth Bowen, which made the Man Booker Prize shortlist in 1970.
I like to go into a book as blind as possible to any other reviews, so it was only after I’d read it that I did a search on Goodreads and found someone who thought this was one of the most challenging books on the Booker list. People seemed to either love this book or think it was a bit ‘meh’. I fell into the latter category.
To give you a brief overview, I would actually have to understand what the book was about, which was something I failed to do for at least half the novel. Eva Trout is a rich woman whose father has died, who has a guardian (Constantine), and who has been living with her old teacher (Iseult) and the teacher’s husband (Eric). All three of the characters mentioned above seem to love Eva in a romantic sense, but we only get hints of what might have ever occurred between her and these characters. We never actually see much action on the page. Instead, most is just mentioned in passing by the characters or hinted at as speculation. In the second half of the novel Eva returns home to England eight years later with a surprise, and what do you know, someone who she knew when she was 24 and he was 12 now loves her too since he’s all grown up.
I couldn’t see why any of the characters would love Eva or, in fact, what was even likable about any of them. They were all boring, with incredibly outdated text used for their dialogue which just added to their stuffiness. None of them seemed like they had a single redeeming feature; they were just manipulative and controlling and rude to Eva. The last page comes with a ‘twist’ which to me was as apparent as the nose on my face, and a crap ‘twist’ because it made absolutely no sense. I can’t say any more without giving it away but I wouldn’t burden you with recommending that you read this novel anyway.
I didn’t hate it, but am glad the read is over. I’m over crap books and need to find something I love again. Thankfully, yesterday I started Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, shortlisted for the Booker in 2012, and it’s been a breath of fresh air.
Eva Trout by Elizabeth Bowen: 2 out of 5 stars.