21/03/2007

The Eyrie (by Stevie Davies)

This is a modern novel by Stevie Davies, a highly acclaimed writer although I had not previously come across her.

The Eyrie is a mansion converted to flats, on the South coast of Wales. The residents include the three main characters of the book: Dora, Eirlys and Hannah. The book takes the perspective of each of these three in turn, as they interact, think about the past, and come
into contact with other residents.

Red Dora has had a dramatic and exciting life including fighting in the Spanish Civil War. At ninety-three she is beginning to realise that her body is old and cannot last forever. And she's never quite come to terms with the untimely death of her only daughter.

Eirlys is a classic middle-aged motherly type who has never married or borne children; she's at the beck and call of her relatives, and likes to look after everyone else in The Eyrie. Hannah is the newest resident when the book opens, a young woman who has escaped from a dull marriage.

I really wanted to like this book. During the first few chapters I felt quite encouraged; whereas some writers insist on filling in every detail of their characters' lives in the early chapters, Stevie Davies does not. She plunges right into Dora's thoughts, Hannah's arrival at The Eyrie, and evidence of Eirlys's motherly nature, letting the reader observe and get to know them as they are.The past is only mentioned when relevant to the storyline, the conversation flows without feeling artificial.

But... I simply couldn't warm to any of the characters. With some authors I feel drawn into stories right from the start, feeling the emotions of the people, gravitating to books any time I have a free moment. That didn't happen with 'The Eyrie'. I kept it by my bed, and read two or three chapters each evening, but by about half-way through it began to feel like a chore rather than a delight.

Not that there was anything to dislike, but there was also nothing that really interested me. There's quite a strong political element to the book, which felt like a not-very-hidden agenda; I wouldn't have minded if the people had been more sympathetic, or if it had been written in the ironic and acerbic style of Anne Tyler - but it wasn't.

Oh, it was fairly interesting to read of an elderly woman with a such a colourful past. Yet the theme is rather discouraging: no matter how much we stand up for our principles, no matter what excitement and thrills we have in our younger days, we all - if we last long enough - become old and frail, subject eventually to the whims of our younger relatives.

Still, it's not a bad book. If you want something to while away a few hours that can be put down any moment, and see it on your library shelves, then by all means try it.

2 comments:

eshuneutics said...

Sadly, I don't think you could be more wrong about this book. The comparison with Anne Tyler is rather misguided since her comedy comes from acidic attacks on weak male characters. "The Eyrie" just isn't in that vein at all. From your comments, you try to see the novel entirely in terms of character development rather than in terms of imagery and interior life. Unless novels are read in relation to their nature, they never make much satisfying sense. Probably, this quietly radical, anti-religious book, just wasn't your cup of tea.

Sue said...

Absolutely - not my cup of tea. I think that's what my review expressed. Unless I can warm to characters in a book, I'm not going to enjoy it. But, as I said, not at all a bad book.