three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
26-Jan-Feb-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-The Light of EveningDelia "Dilly" Macready, 78, is dying of ovarian cancer in a Dublin hospital. She is not so patiently waiting for Eleanora, her daughter, to arrive. But Eleanora, a famous writer, has other things on her mind. Alternating between the perspectives of these two conflicted women, The Light of Evening narrates Dilly’s immigration to America, her marriage, and her eventual return to Ireland, as well as Eleanora’s horrible marriage, its eventual end, and her ongoing affairs. Each woman wishes to understand the other, to make peace, and to leave the past behind. Not a simple task.
Houghton Mifflin. 294 pages. $25. ISBN: 0618718672

Dallas Morning News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Ms. O’Brien is a celebrated writer now, but this work reflects her complicated relationship with Ireland and her mother. Never maudlin, the story depicts with subtlety the need to seek out someone to blame when life disappoints." Anne Morris

Philadelphia Inquirer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The focus may be soft in The Light of Evening, but the truths it illuminates are hard as diamonds." Frank Wilson

Newsday 3 of 5 Stars
"Dilly’s life is so richly imagined, her travails so intensely felt, that you can’t help feeling that, by comparison, Eleanora’s is petty and shallow. … But the pettiness and impermanency of Eleanora’s life is part of O’Brien’s scheme." Charles Taylor

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"Some critics lament a certain redundancy in O’Brien’s endless rewriting of her autobiographical struggles, but I found that the oft-rehearsed sketches of her fictionalized experience … capture everything that makes her previous work so satisfying, in its contrite, worldly prose and its refusal of easy redemption." Louise Bernard

NY Times Book Review 2.5 of 5 Stars
"This is a novel crammed with emotion, but the reader finally wishes that there might have been some of the austerity you’d see in the faces of those infants and angels in the chapel in Limerick." Erica Wagner

Critical Summary

Edna O’Brien’s 20th work of fiction does what all of her novels do: it lyrically expounds on the dizzying power of love. Nevertheless, reviews were mixed. Light of Evening is simultaneously overwrought, sentimental, forceful, and heartbreakingly true—even if the tacked-on conclusion felt strained. The narrative shifts between third-person points of view, stream of consciousness, and diary entries also caused a problem for some reviewers, including Erica Wagner from the New York Times Book Review: "Overall, the novel is destabilized by the shifts in perception that are also so much a part of its structure."