Illustrations by Frances Halsband
2003 Ballantine Books
Finished on January 18, 2023
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
Every evening at five o'clock, Christina and Rudy stopped work and began the ritual commonly known as Happy Hour. Rudy mixed Christina's drink with loving precision, the cavalier slosh of Bombay Sapphire over ice shards, before settling across from her in his Stickley chair with his glass of Scotch. They shared a love of language and music (she is an author, he a composer, after all), a delight in intense conversation, a fascination with popes, and nearly thirty years of life together.
What did I think, that we had forever? muses Christina, seven months after Rudy's unexpected death. While coming to terms with her loss, with the space that Rudy once inhabited, Christina reflects on their vibrant bond - with all its quirks, habits, and unguarded moments - as well as her passionate sorrow and her attempts to reposition herself and her new place in the very real world they shared.
In this literary jewel, a bittersweet novella of absence and presence and the mysterious gap between them, Gail Godwin has performed a small miracle. In essence, Evenings at Five is a grief sonata for solo instrument transposed into words. Interwoven with meditations and movements, full of aching truths and a wicked sense of humor, it exquisitely captures the cyclical nature of commitment - and the eternal quality of a romance completed.
A dear friend gifted me this lovely book fifteen years ago, and while I know I read it sometime in early 2008, I didn't have any memory of the story when I picked it up again last week. Having just finished two exceptionally long novels (Coming Home and A Fine Balance), I was ready to read something not quite so long. I began with Foster by Claire Keegan, and was so pleased with that novella, that I searched my shelves for something else that I could read in one evening. Evenings at Five was just the ticket. Like Foster, the book is roughly 5x7, fitting neatly in one hand. With a mere 114 pages (many of which include lovely line drawings, spanning across the spread of two pages), this was a perfect choice for a quick, yet thoughtful, read.
I'm not sure if it's due to my more mature age (I was 47 rather than 61 when I first read Evenings at Five), but the characters and their lives resonated with me much more this time around. My husband and I are now both retired and have a similar "happy hour" ritual each evening at five. This tender story could easily be overwhelmingly depressing, but I found it lyrical and filled with love, and one which I will return to in the future.
I think I would enjoy this book. I have had Foster on hold at my library for a while, I'm #2 on the list now.ReplyDelete
Vicki, it's a quiet, contemplative story. I really enjoyed it. And Foster is outstanding!Delete
Sounds like a lovely book. I also like the colors on the back of the chair.ReplyDelete
Harvee, I love that chair, too. The cover art for this book is so lovely.Delete
It's been years since I last read Gail Godwin and this one sounds just lovely! After two long books, something short has extra appeal... and we have our Happy Hour ritual, too. These days at the beach at sunset. Let's see if I can find a copy...ReplyDelete
JoAnn, I'm so glad I still have my copy. Nan gave it to me for Christmas in 2007 and for a long time, it sat on my living room side table, on top of a stack of other books. I love the cover art! It's funny how much more I enjoyed the book at this point in my life than when I was in my 40s. As far as Happy Hour rituals go, Rod and I are cutting way back on our alcohol consumption, so while we still get together (with my mom) for HH each evening, we're more inclined to sip on a seltzer water or hot tea. Hope you find your copy for a re-read!Delete
This actually sounds so lovely.ReplyDelete
Ti, it really is. I'm glad I rediscovered it on my shelves.Delete
Les!!!! You always give me such great suggestions for books and tv shows! I had not heard of Gail Godwin and I love the way you described Evenings at Five. Beautiful cover too.ReplyDelete
Aw, thanks Tina. I appreciate your enthusiasm. :) Whenever I think about putting this blog to bed, I remember how many people enjoy my reviews, so I keep going. Plus, it's fun to look back and see what I've read over the years. I hope you enjoy the book. Isn't the cover art lovely? I used to keep the book on a table in my living room since it sort of matched my decor, at the time. I even had a room with walls close to that same color, although not the living room. Thanks again for you sweet comment.Delete
Thank you for letting me know you had written about this book. I wonder if that is a Stickley chair. I looked at the website, and I think it could be. https://www.stickley.com/ They seem to feature wood and material, much like the Morris chair I grew up with.ReplyDelete
I am very pleased the book meant so much to you. 2007! I don't think I have read it since. But I so loved it. Of course, in that year, I was 59!!!!
Nan, my guess is that it is a Stickley chair. Quite beautiful, isn't it? You'll have to let me know if you reread the book. Thank you, again, for gifting it to me all those years ago. xoDelete
Oh I definitely want to read this one! I haven't read anything by Gail Godwin in a long time but have definitely enjoyed a couple of her books.ReplyDelete
Iliana, I don't even know if I've read anything else by Godwin. Some of the titles sound familiar, but I have no blogging record of any. Maybe something will turn up as I continue with my Friday "Looking Back" posts. Hope you enjoy this one. I know I'll read it again someday.Delete