This novel is the second in Matson Taylor’s series following Evie Epworth (Yorkshirewoman, Fashion Lover, List Maker). So now, I can categorically say that each time I finish a book about Evie I have a big sunny smile on my face. Of course all books make us feel things, even if it’s to throw them out of the nearest window, but it’s a rare book that gives us a real physical reaction such as the spooky ones that give us goosebumps on the arms or lift the hairs on the back of our neck. I’ve only spontaneously burst into tears once, thanks to David Nicholls’s One Day and that twist none of us saw coming. Not only is Matson is great at those laugh out loud moments, such as the ‘cow incident’ that precipitated her car accident in the first book. As I finished All About Evie I found myself unable to stop smiling. This book feels like liquid sunshine being poured into your veins.
Our previous book ended as Evie is being waved off to an adventurous new life in London, alongside mentor Caroline, the unconventional and glamorous daughter of Evie’s lifelong neighbour and baking partner Mrs Scott-Pym. All About Evie starts ten years later in 1970’s London, where Evie is working in a junior role on BBC Radio Four’s Women’s Hour. Previously, we met Evie at time of great change and this novel is no different. Thanks to a terrible incident with a visiting Princess Anne and the misuse of a mug Evie is sacked from the BBC. Does this mean her life in her little London flat is in jeopardy? Caroline thinks this is an opportunity to try something new so Evie tries working in an art gallery. When it turns out art, particularly the modern variety, isn’t for her she lists things she’d like to do and falls upon the idea of writing for a magazine. She finds the magazine Right On in an office above a sex shop – handy windows for checking one’s hair before walking into the office – and asks for a job. Assuming she’s been a journalist at the BBC, NickStickUpBum and NickWithCollars agree to give her a trial on the listings pages, essentially long lists of what’s on in London across the arts from opera to poetry evenings. With the offer of help from Lolo (Radio Three producer, homosexual, basset owner) on the classical music listings, Evie decides to give it a go and sprinkle some sunshine over her work, in her own inimitable way.
In between Evie’s story there are a couple of flashbacks to other character’s lives. Evie’s neighbour Mrs Scott-Pym has died recently and we see her packing a case for Evie, with little artefacts to remind Evie of their time together – including a pestle and mortar wrapped in a tea towel of Bolton Abbey. Evie is grieving for her old friend, but the reminiscences become even more emotional when we realise that Mrs Scott-Pym was, aside from Dad Arthur, the only link back to Evie’s mum Diana. Preserving her memories of their friendship for Evie is so poignant and it does make Evie think about her future. Can she keep dating totally unsuitable men, who she carefully and comically lists for us, or does she want to meet someone she can share her life with? I thoroughly enjoyed the tension between Evie and her rather hippy dippy workmate Griffin. Griffin is a proponent of high culture and wants the magazine to remain intellectual rather than popular. So to try something a little more highbrow, Evie accepts Lola’s invitation to her first opera. Afterwards, NickWithCollars suggests she write a review for the magazine. This infuriates Griffin who thinks Evie is definitely low culture and would rather they published one of her own poems. When the men are out of the office, Griffin places herself in charge and gives Evie petty tasks to fulfil, often creating a mistake to trip Evie up or keep her working late. Evie tries to take the high road, but her yoga chant trick is absolutely brilliant and well deserved. I couldn’t wait for Griffin to receive her real comeuppance! Meanwhile, there’s a lovely friendship forming between Evie and Lolo, as well as his basset hound.
Yet underneath the humour, there’s so much more going on. A beautifully poignant thread running through the novel is that of motherhood. There are memories of Evie’s mum of course and we’re aware of all the life experiences Evie would have loved to share with her. Evie’s mum never got to see her grow and all that promise is encapsulated in one little throwaway object from the suitcase. Evie has many mother figures though, obviously Mrs Scott-Pym and her friend Mrs Swithenbank who gives Evie a call every week just to check in. Caroline and her lover Digby are disagreeing over the possibility of becoming parents, particularly as Caroline would have to carry the child and believes she doesn’t have that maternal instinct. However, both women have been invaluable to Evie, she even loves popping in and watering their plants while they’re away. Their house gives her the sense of having a family in the city, an anchor that keeps her from being swept away amongst the crowds. We see Evie draw on all these maternal figures when Mrs Swithenbank’s daughter Genevieve turns up in London in search of a fashion career. Genevieve carries just one suitcase, but is full of ideas and her outlandish outfits were so funny – one inflatable hoop dress brought back terrible memories of being stuck in a dress in Laura Ashley’s changing rooms and having to ring my Mum to get me out. Evie feeds Genevieve, lets her stay and starts introducing her to the right people. Every day she comes home, dejected from receiving lots of knockbacks, despite her inventive fashion portfolio. Every time Evie props her up and brings her spirit back. It was lovely to see Evie in this life stage, being the mentor and feeling so confident. As much as I love London, it was also nice to see her at home on the farm with old friends reunited and new ones being introduced, plus a very exciting finale which gives us a nod towards what Evie might do next. I can’t wait to celebrate this fantastic novel with a 1970s party. I’m hoping for a cheese and pineapple hedgehog and Babycham to toast this joyful new stage in the Evie story.
Published 21st July 2022 by Scribner UK
Meet The Author
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. All About Evie is his second novel.