Cheri's Reviews > Ordinary People

Ordinary People by Diana Evans
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bookshelves: arc, netgalley, london, england, 2018, fiction-contemporary

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 / Neil Diamond

Ordinary people living in London, with ordinary problems, this story centers on two black couples, and while there are others, this is primarily their story.

Melissa and Michael, who have two children, whose love life has lost all of its initial glow and sparkle. Michael’s best friend is Damian.

Stephanie and Damian are the other main couple, who primarily seem there to serve as a vehicle to hear each side of the story of Melissa and Michael and their deteriorating marriage, and partly to add another dimension to the story.

”They were on the far side of youth, at a moment in their lives when the gradual descent into age was beginning to appear, the quickening of time, the mounting of the years. They were insisting on their youth. They were carrying it with both hands.”

There’s also an additional, supernatural, element to this novel, which seemed to me to serve no real purpose except, perhaps, to push Michael and Melissa further apart as Melissa insists that the house is possessed and Michael continues to try to ignore her insistence of this as a fact. In the beginning, this just seemed out of place, a quirk she had, where he seems to believe she invented it to get him to sell the house and move, but eventually it ramps into a somewhat bizarre storyline that reaches a climax but, eventually, fizzles out. As though it were meant to add something to this story filled with ordinary days and ordinary people where so little really happens, excluding infidelity.

This begins with the election of Barack Obama, and concludes, around the time of the death of Michael Jackson, and frequently mentioning John Legend songs, along with other pop culture references of the era, but the song that came to me (not that I don't love John Legend) was a duet my mother used to play (all too frequently) in the car on drives, with Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond singing “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” – the back and forth of the complaints in this story, the “you don’t do this” and the “you don’t do that!” Tit for tat, but broken hearts, all the same.

While there are occasionally some lovely, noteworthy passages, the writing – the story - in general, suffered (for me) from too much telling, not enough showing. As a result, this story, more often than not, felt like it was crawling at a never-ending pace for me.

”It's only words, and words are all I have
To take your heart away”

-- Words, Bee Gees, Songwriters: Barry Gibb / Maurice Ernest Gibb / Robin Hugh Gibb

Pub Date: 11 SEP 2018

Many thanks for the ARC provided by W.W. Norton & Company / Liveright
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Reading Progress

August 9, 2018 – Started Reading
August 9, 2018 – Shelved
August 9, 2018 –
August 10, 2018 –
August 10, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-39 of 39 (39 new)

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message 1: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Too much telling irks me too, Cheri! I hope your next book has much more showing, lol! Wonderful review!

Katie B It's good to know that I wasn't the only person who had to listen to "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" on car trips. I swear my parents had like 3 cassette tapes and Neil's Greatest Hits was one of them. Anyway, great review! Hope your next book is better!

Cheri Thanks so much, Meredith, it makes my head hurt, and it comes across as angry to me! Not one for me!

Cheri Katie, thank you, it is good to know I wasn't alone in having to listen to this a hundred too many times. I think the duet was on one of her Streisand's tapes, not sure if my mother ever had any of Neil's tapes. I think this was the last one bought for "her" car. The writing is good in this, just not for me!

message 5: by Antoinette (new)

Antoinette I love the Bee Gee song you quoted. Dates me, of course. Sorry this book wasn’t for you. Hopefully next one better.

Cheri Thanks so much, Antoinette, I've heard that song done on shows like The Voice / American Idol so I think there's a possibility it may still be known by a younger generation. I do love that song, though, too!

message 7: by Deanna (new)

Deanna Great review!! :)

Cheri Thanks so much, Deanna!

message 9: by Bianca (new)

Bianca Sorry you had to suffer through this. I've had a couple of duds lately, as you well know. The upside, it can only get better.

Cheri Thanks, Bianca, I know - you've had a few, but that only makes the 5 star ones even sweeter! I'm hoping that my next will be better, too! Thanks for the support!

Cheri Thank you so much, Maddie!

message 12: by Julie (new)

Julie Hmmm. Would you call this a work of magical realism, Cheri?

Cheri Personally, I would not... to me, it comes across more as a fluctuating means to divide the couple, if anything it has a brief moment, an element that veers a bit into the "possessed" area, but I can't think of any descriptive phrases or events that even bordered on magical realism, Julie! (That might have helped this one, though I doubt it)

message 14: by Robin (new)

Robin I remember that song was played in our 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit's tape deck on family road trips... far, far too often. ICK! How awful, Cheri, to have a literary version of that on your hands. I think I'll pass.

Cheri Robin, your comment made me laugh. It was an old station wagon, gold in colour (my mother had just started selling real estate for Century 21) for me. Sorry, I don't really control what songs come to mind while I'm reading - actually sometimes it gets a bit annoying (you can guess whether it was this time or not). I think others will like this book far more than I, but I think I'd really rather listen to the song... (there are no copies of it here...)

message 16: by Karen (new)

Karen Sorry it wasn’t great for you... on to the next..😊

message 17: by Kaceey (new)

Kaceey Terrific review Cheri! Sorry it didn’t work for you! I remember listening to that song on car trips too!!😂. Memories....oh ya! That one too!

message 18: by Julie (new)

Julie Okay, so. . . sounds less like magical realism and more like a random decision made by the author. Personally, I'd hate to add "possession of the house" to the list of issues I must present to my husband on a weekly basis. . . the garbage disposal's broken again, the A/C repair guy didn't show up, and, oh yeah, there was a ghost on the staircase. Like, we're busy enough. You know what I mean?

Brenda -Traveling Sister Great review, Cheri! Sorry to see this wasn’t a read for you!

message 20: by Angela M (new)

Angela M Thanks for your honesty, Cheri . Will skip this.

Cheri Thanks so much, Karen!

Cheri Julie, there are less things with the house (although there are some) but her interpretation of what is ailing her daughter, health-wise. But later on, it takes on more of a tone of "possession," and then more or less abandons it. Decision by the author, definitely.

Cheri Thank you, Brenda, I'm honestly not sure who this is a book for.

Cheri Thanks so much, Angela, yes, I would say that for you it's a wise decision.

message 25: by Supratim (new)

Supratim Great review, Cheri!

Cheri Kaceey, so sorry! I almost missed your comment. I think I could now listen to that song once in a while and appreciate it, but there was a long time when I just heard it too, too much. Yes, and Memories!

Cheri Thanks so much, Supratim!

Norma * Traveling Sister and proud Grandma!!! Great honest review, Cheri!

Cheri Thanks so much, Norma.

message 30: by Diane S ☔ (new) - added it

Diane S ☔ Terrific review, Cheri.

Cheri Thank you so much, Diane.

message 32: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Masterson Great review, Cheri! I’m sorry the book wasn’t better for you.

Cheri Thanks so much, Jennifer!

message 34: by Fran (new)

Fran Cheri..great review...sorry that one did not work that well for you!

Cheri Thanks so much, Fran, it happens to all of us eventually, but it's never fun.

Holly Louise I couldn’t agree more with this review! This was my experience with it too

Cheri Thank you, Holly! I've managed to block most of my memories of reading this one!

message 38: by Jean (new) - rated it 1 star

Jean Woodward Agreed!

Cheri Thank you Jean, and I'm glad I'm not the only one!

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