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Ordinary People

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  9,463 ratings  ·  764 reviews
‘You can take a leap, do something off the wall, something reckless. It’s your last chance, and most people miss it.’

South London, 2008. Two couples find themselves at a moment of reckoning, on the brink of acceptance or revolution. Melissa has a new baby and doesn’t want to let it change her but, in the crooked walls of a narrow Victorian terrace, she begins to disappear.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 5th 2018 by Chatto & Windus
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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 ·  9,463 ratings  ·  764 reviews

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2.5 Stars

“It used to be so natural (Used to be)
To talk about forever
But used-to-be's don't count anymore
They just lay on the floor 'til we sweep them away

”And baby, I remember
All the things you taught me

“I learned how to laugh
And I learned how to cry

“Well I learned how to love
And I learned how to lie

“So you'd think I could learn
How to tell you goodbye

“You don't bring me flowers anymore”

-- You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Barbra Streisand & Neil Diamond, Songwriters: Alan Bergman / Marilyn Bergman /
Katie B
I had so much trouble with this one. I started it, read a few chapters, and put it down and hoped if I let a little time pass I could maybe get into it. But clearing my head and rereading the beginning didn't change my feelings. Sometimes there's books that you just don't connect with and this is certainly one of them for me. I really wanted to support this one as there just isn't a whole lot of books on the market featuring middle-aged black people dealing with married life, but I ended up feel ...more
Ordinary People is an unassuming book in many ways, right down to a title that arguably puts a wall up and makes the reader ask right off the bat 'why should I care?' Diana Evans answers that question over the course of this slow paced yet incisive story that chronicles two disintegrating relationships in 2008 London. We follow two couples: Melissa and Michael, and Damian and Stephanie; one couple is married and one is not, though both have children and are each struggling in their own way with ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Girl, I'm in love with you
This ain't the honeymoon
Passed the infatuation phase ..
Seems like we argue everyday
I know I misbehaved and you made your mistakes ….
We're just ordinary people
We don't know which way to go

Now shortlisted for the 2019 Women's Prize.

As befits the past Arts and Music editor of Pride Magazine, music sits at the heart of this novel, which is one part celebration of black South London life, and in other part an examination of what ha
Peter Boyle
May 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
This Women's Prize shortlisted novel focuses on the struggles of two black couples in London, circa 2008. First up are Michael and Melissa, who have been engaged for 13 years. They live in 13 Paradise Row with their beautiful children but under the idyllic facade, cracks have begun to show. Melissa feels frustrated and unfulfilled by her domestic chores, missing her exciting job as a fashion journalist. Michael longs for the passion of their early courtship and believes that his partner is not a ...more
Paul Fulcher
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
How long will you go on living your life as if you were balancing on a ribbon?

Now deservedly shortlisted for the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction, and set largely in a wonderfully drawn South-East London - the London the Tube forgot - Diane Evans's Ordinary People is book-ended by two significant milestones, Obama's election victory in November 2008, and Michael Jackson's death in June 2009.  It opens:
To celebrate Obama’s election, the Wiley brothers threw a party at their house in Crystal Palace
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it


3.5 Stars.

Looking back in hindsight, I probably went into this book expecting not to like it. Even the title has a way of unintentionally lowering your expectations. What could be exciting or enjoyable about reading about a bunch of people living out their “ordinary” lives? Well, I can admit that I am pleasantly surprised and did enjoy this novel. Having said that, I don’t think it will be for everybody.
A simple description of the narrative is th
Eric Anderson
Apr 30, 2019 rated it liked it
In a way I felt a special connection with this novel centred around a location so familiar to me. Diana Evans’ “Ordinary People” is set roughly a decade ago – spanning between the year of Obama’s election to the year of Michael Jackson’s death - in an area of south London very close to where I live. So I could instantly visualize the landmarks, parks and even the bus routes she references. Her characters eat in some restaurants I’ve eaten in and even if a restaurant wasn’t named I still knew whi ...more
The problem with this book is its sheer ordinariness. Quaint domestic dramas like these seemed to be popular some 20 years ago — think, Suzanne Berne’s A Perfect Arrangement or Rachel Cusk’s Arlington Park, both examining middle age and domesticity.

The world has become a lot more complicated since then. The impact of social media, the rise of nationalism, the political divide, mass diaspora, the changing landscape of race and gender, the threat of climate change... these issues have brought an u
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbury-library
This reminded me a fair bit of On Beauty by Zadie Smith – high praise as that’s one of my favorite novels of the last 15 years. It focuses on two Black couples in South London and the suburbs who, in the wake of Obama’s first election, are reassessing their relationships. Their problems are familiar middle-class ones – how to balance career and family, especially for Melissa, with a new baby; how romances fade over time; and how the grass always looks greener in somebody else’s garden – but Evan ...more
2.5 rounded down

I didn't particularly dislike this, just felt pretty ambivalent about it.

Although the premise isn't new (how relationships and people change after marriage and/or children) I began this thinking it had potential, but the story ended up being kind of all over the place. I'd think it was just getting better, or the author had just hit on something that really made me think... and then it was over, things moved on, and I felt kind of bored again.

The lack of character development wa
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Evans does a great job of capturing the discontent that often arises during that period in a couple’s relationship when they have young children and their careers are starting to pick up. She highlights this challenging time, especially for women who have the added burden of being the ‘perfect’ mom or who sometimes come to find that (gasp) they actually don’t enjoy being a mom at all. Unfortunately, the book is bogged down by some superfluous plot lines and the writing is often of the telling va ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
I read almost half of the first chapter, and that was about 17.5 pages too much for my liking. “Dull People” should’ve been the title. Lists upon lists of ridiculous materialistic crap. I seem to vaguely remember – I just bailed two minutes ago – that there were one or two characters’ names mentioned, but really all I will take from this drab tale are lists, endless lists of what people wore, drank, and danced to.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
⭐⭐⭐ 1/2


As the title suggests, Diana Evans' ORDINARY PEOPLE delves deep into the mundane struggles of domestic life, capturing a key period in the lives of two BAM couples, Michael and Melissa and Danian and Stephanie). Their passions having become stale, exhausted by parenthood and time, all four begin to reflect on the days of their relationships and whether past intense love or their shared children are enough to keep goin
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
November 2008 and a party in London celebrates the election of Barack Obama and we are introduced to Michael and Melissa. Not long after that, we meet Damian and Stephanie. These two couples, along with their children, are the central characters in this novel that tracks their relationships. The book closes around the time of Michael Jackson’s death, by which time relationships have foundered, re-launched, foundered again. You might want to ask why a novel about two London couples is bookended b ...more
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was intrigued by the premise of this novel: a portrait of black Londoners set against the backdrop of Obama's historical election victory. It started off well: Evans set up the two couples and their backstories in the first couple of chapters and then everything started to go downhill from there.

The novel was too long: I found myself bored through large sections of the novel. It was far too descriptive (did Evans really need to mention every single toy in that baby singing class?), with a lot
Britta Böhler
Not my favorite of the shortlisted books. I can see what the author wanted to do but the tale of the two couples is a bit tedious at times... And the musical references didnt mean enough to me to give flavor to the story.
Jun 05, 2019 marked it as will-probably-not-finish
This just isn't the book for me. I found it overly wordy and bogged down by details and I just do not want to keep investing my time. ...more
Beth Bonini
This story of two ‘ordinary’ couples in contemporary London is bookended by two extraordinary events: the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States (November 4, 2008) and the death of Michael Jackson (June 25, 2009). There is a lot of significance in those two public figures - not just their race, although that is key - but also that arc of possibility/hope and sadness/finality. Obama and Jackson: they are both such important black icons, and even more than that, symbol ...more
Ordinary people - ordinary book. This is a novel that promises a lot: some kind of State of the Union for black Londoners in the aftermath of the Obama election. But the reality is grinding drudgery of Londoners worried about house prices, prestige and how many friends they have. There's a couple (Damian and Stephanie) that have relocated to outer suburbia, and another couple (Melissa and Michael) living in Sarf Lahndan. They worry about jobs and babies and sex. Then they worry some more about j ...more
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-reads, fiction
My response to this novel fluctuated frequently between appreciation and impatience.

It focuses on a pair of middle-class black couples in London in 2008-2009. They're in their mid-thirties, with young kids, and hitting difficult patches in their relationships. Matthew and Melissa are the more fleshed out couple. After deciding to stay home and freelance after the birth of their second child, Melissa finds she is losing her sense of self and growing more and more irritated with Matthew, as well
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
The title of Diana Evans's new novel, Ordinary People, comes from a John Legend song. "This ain't the honeymoon, past the infatuation phase," he sings. "Right in the thick of love, at times we get sick of love..." And then: "We're just ordinary people/we don't know which way to go." This, in a nutshell, is the problem for Evans's protagonists: two couples, Michael and Melissa, Damian and Stephanie, trying to keep their relationships alive after marriage and/or children, moving to the suburbs, lo ...more
Alison Hardtmann
Melissa and Michael are the perfect couple. Attractive and well-matched, they are the couple their friends would say is the most likely to be together forever. They have two lovely children and they've just moved into a house of their own. But the new house, far in the outer reaches of London's suburbs, means that Michael has a long commute each day and returns home in the evening tired, and Melissa is finding that caring for two small children isn't something she's managing well on her own. She ...more
Jonathan Pool
Shortlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Literature, this is an unusual book, and very much of its time.  This is a London book that features two couples living pretty standard, married lives, facing the challenges of coupledom, the raising of children, infidelity, and an average interest in contemporary political events.
What makes this different, is that the couples in question are either black or a mixture of black and white.  There are some key references to outlooks and style that is speci
Amanda Bannister
Jun 09, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5 rounded up to 3 ⭐️, as there were some parts that bored me, but other parts I liked!
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

“Sometimes in the lives of ordinary people, there is a great halt, a revelation, a moment of change. It occurs under low mental skies, never when one is happy. You are walking along on a crumbling road. The tarmac is falling away beneath your feet and you have started to limp, you are wearing rags, a cruel wind is blowing against your face. It feels as though you have been walking for a very long time. You are losing hope. You are losing meaning, and the only thing feeling keeping you
Kayleigh Kehoe ♡

"'I'm on a mission to reclaim my literary innocence.'"

Ordinary People is centered around two black couples, Melissa and Michael, and Damian and Stephanie. The initial glow of their relationships has dulled and their fiery love turns into a comfortable familiarity, which then twists into a feral resentment for each of them that was once held in the throes of passion.

The story begins with the elated and historic elec
A story about love and how relationships can destroy love. In this novel we follow two couples who through the ups and downs of daily life gradually risk to lose sight of what is important.
Beautifully written and an empathic view on the frailness of humans and their relations, on the passing by of the years and the dangers of living life without taking time and a break once in a while.
womens prize for fiction 2019 shortlist
loved everything about it!! smart, funny, sad, wise, contemporary, urban, poetic, realistic, magical... true. beautiful sentences, great characters, life in london in our times, as it is... exquisite scenes... accomplished in every regard. what more can you ask for? highly recommended
Abbie | ab_reads
Thank you to @womensprize for sending me this book to review! Ordinary People has a lot of the ingredients that usually make a five-star read for me (character-driven plot, motherhood, explorations of race and class in Britain) and yet it ended up just being a middle of the road read. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, it just... was.
Although the back of the book claimed to follow the lives of two couples, there was definitely a very strong bias towards one couple, Michael and Melissa, to the
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Diana Evans is a British author of Nigerian and English descent. Her bestselling debut novel, 26a, won the inaugural Orange Award for New Writers and the British Book Awards deciBel Writer of the Year prize. It was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel, the Guardian First Book, the Commonwealth Best First Book and the Times/Southbank Show Breakthrough awards, and longlisted for the Internation ...more

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“It wasn’t you, you know,’ Michael said in the end. ‘That wasn’t the reason. You were just a device in the machine of our breaking, and we needed to break. It’s not so bad, when it finally happens. You think the world is going to collapse around you but it doesn’t. You can see yourself clearly again. You realise that the fear was the worst thing.” 5 likes
“Where is the fault? Is it believing that the people you love are immortal? Untouchable? No, everyone believes that. Only no one know it's what they believe- until it happens. Then comes the rage, the banging about the walls, crying what if, what if. Everyone is always so damned surprised, that is the horror of it.” 2 likes
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