All Evelyn has ever wanted is to please her mother; all Barbara, Evelyn’s mother, has ever wanted is for Evelyn to be accepted into elite Eastern society. Barbara doesn’t care whether Evelyn is well read, but she had sure as hell better know which spoon to use, and what to wear to every occasion…and most of all, she had better know “everybody who’s anybody”. In other words, Clifford’s skewer of high society hits the mark in ways both wry and hilarious. This terribly amusing little tale goes on sale August 18—oh wait, was my rhyme a trifle tacky? Anyway, you can buy it soon, or you can order it in advance, but I was lucky and got a copy free from Net Galley and St. Martin’s Press for this humble review. Thank you to both of them.
Evelyn’s parents want different things, and it’s just her luck—she is their only child, so all their expectations fall on her shoulders. Her father, an attorney with egalitarian notions and a folksy Southern manner, is often out of town, working for the clients he represents and sticking it to the big pharmaceutical companies. So most of the time, it’s Evelyn and her mother. And her mother is relentless in her need for social stature.
Evelyn is sent to Sheffield Boarding School, which should provide some relief, but her mother obtains a copy of the student directory, and has tracked the social value of every child there. Evelyn is friends with Charlotte, a young woman of high ideals and great loyalty, but she has pigtails, a social no-no, and the wrong damn family. Evelyn is conflicted, because she is close to Charlotte, but her mother wants her to drop her. Her mother has chosen the people Evelyn should cultivate. Imagine!
Over the course of time, Evelyn manages to worm her way into the upper reaches of the social echelon, but she can’t financially afford the lifestyle she is expected to lead. And worst of all, she comes to realize, once she is rubbing elbows with the cream of society, that her mother is actually pretty embarrassing. Her mother does not have as much upper-crust social sense as she thinks she does.
She’d better avoid her.
You may think I have spoiled the surprises, but you haven’t heard the half of it. There are so many choice bits along the way, and then the ending is something else entirely. At times I felt that I was watching a train wreck I was incapable of stopping, but the thing is, I really liked watching it, and the ending, which seems obvious as it approaches, is a surprise after all.
If you’re heading for the beach this August, or just need entertainment for a good long holiday weekend with the air conditioner cranked and a nice drink ready to hand, this is a gift you should get for yourself. It’s absorbing and vastly entertaining.