As Diana Evans encapsulates in her novel, Ordinary People, it turns out we are all just that; ordinary. We all have problems, ups, downs and miracles, high highs and low lows – yes people may be famous or very poor, but we still remain, humanly ordinary.
I’m really glad I read this book, as it opened me up to different cultures which I (and I hope many others are doing the same) have implored myself to investigate more of since the awareness of #BLM and the ripple effects, by reading more black authors as an example.
It’s difficult to keep this post concise as Evans’ work contains so much that is relatable, honest and believable!
It follows two couples: Michael and Melissa, where her friend Hazel refers to them as ‘chocolate’ as both are black and hard to crack. M&M and unmarried, instead going through a long engagement that they are existing through, along with their children Ria and baby Blake.
Then there is Stephanie and Damian; him black, and her mixed and their three children, although Evans doesn’t focus so much on this pair.
Like most couples, I’m sure they know each other based on one-half from childhood, where the other halves are then thrown together to discuss any mundane, normal parts of life, especially children amongst some of the common themes of ‘ordinary’ throughout the novel. Starting around Obama’s time in the White House, the novel evolves with a soundtrack from John Lennon, through to Puff Daddy and Michael Jackson (and his death), along with the stretch of each relationship and their highs and strains. In fact, Evans has a Spotify playlist for the novel here.
Melissa and Michael appear to be stretched the farthest: it’s difficult to say if the children are the reason, or if the couple were mismatched in the first place, despite Evans revisiting the moment they met in the sunny Jamaican sea. Moments like these are common amongst us ordinary people, who I am sure experience the same head-over-heels and lustrous moments with a new partner.
M&M and Stephanie and Damian represent the everyday existence of most couples with dreams of doing something bold and better in their life, only for it to be taken over; we become short of time, work, marriage, break ups, new love, divorce, family, more love, children, things getting in the way…
Whilst I am yet to go through most of these (some of which I can fortunately decide), they are SO relatable. We all have hopes and dreams which they have to be pushed forward to the future, only for them to be pushed even more with the hope that they can still happen someday or heartbreakingly…shattered.
Whilst still in my twenties, I am ambitious. I know I am. Maybe you are too? I know there is so much I want to do or have started and not yet finished, and the existence of social media doesn’t help but add fuel to the fire that I am never good enough – do you feel the same? I often think and wait for the ‘when I have more time…’ moment, but it turns out that I (and maybe you) have already landed in that space 😦
But back to these peeps: I found the novel slow to start, but it soon picks up as the common and relatable themes reveal themselves: love, sex, friendships, race, health, culture, tales of past, lies, cheats, grief, ageing, relationships, marriage (to name a few!).
I can totally understand why this book was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction as it raises awareness of the issues many couples face, including culture and gang-related issues in London with innocents caught in the crossfire. I would love to see this on the small screen, as I envisioned this as a Sky piece throughout, although I’m not sure if any adaptation can give this novel the credit it deserves.
Marriage appears to be a strong topic and issue, making us feel trapped, safe or too afraid of the unknown, so much so that these pieces stuck with me:
How long will you go on living your life, as if you were balancing on a ribbon?
It’s because we’re not in the wrong place… it’s scary. That’s why.
There’s the topic of couples trying to keep the spark alive and have sex, where marriage instead becomes about the children but no one really wants to admit it. Also, marriage is clearly commitment and makes it harder to people to leave, but also make them work harder to stay – do you agree with this? Do you believe in monogamy?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although it was heavy going at times. Like many books I’ve read recently, a warning, it is slowly putting my off wanting children…
At the end of the day, we are ALL ordinary people and Diana Evans delivers the perfect execution of why we are just that and why hopes and dreams should never be let go.
Rating – 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Genre – Urban, domestic fiction