A mother, who has suddenly died of heart failure, an eight-year-old spirited girl, a father that remains illusive, an aggressive redheaded Irish burglar, and a missing teenager, are all the ingredients of this marvelous coming of age story set amongst the hills and dales of rural Wales. Eve Green is a haunting tale that is part mystery, part love story, part inter-generational saga, and also part memorandum to loved ones that are now lost.
After the sudden death of her mother in Birmingham, eight-year-old Evangeline finds herself transported to her grandparents' tiny Welsh village of Cae Tresanit - with its quaint farmhouses, shady lanes, peat bogs, and dank old gold mines. Eve gradually becomes to love the natural beauty and farm life of old Wales. She's a brave, strong-willed, and flame-haired girl, who embarks upon a journey to discover where she really comes from. But as she gets older, she gradually becomes embroiled in her own mysterious family history and the inexplicable disappearance of Rosie a young village girl, who liked to wear short skirts and roller-skate through the village.
Finding an old shoebox with a collection of her mother's mementoes, Eve manages to piece together the story of her mother's affair with the man that became Eve's father. The only clue that Eve has to his identity is that his first name begins with K. Meanwhile, Eve befriends mad old hermit-like local boy Billy Macklin. Billy a mystical and forlorn figure has been physically and mentally scarred when a bucking horse disfigured his face. But it is through the enigmatic Billy, that Eve is able to discover the truth about her mother, the mysterious man called K, and why local village shopkeeper Mr. Phipps despises her so.
From the outset Eve is different from the other children in the village. She's often haughty and rebellious, and picks fights with the other schoolgirls. Eve's grandmother - who hides the truth about Eve's past - is frightened of losing her grip on her granddaughter, just like she did with Eve's mother. As Eve garners more misty-eyed secrets, she becomes more reliant on Billy, and realizes "if there is a little box of secrets she couldn't quite prize open, Billy is the one with the key." Billy knows all about love, and Eve sees the signs of a saddened heart - solitude, quietness, a lethargy that sat alongside a desire to protect all that reminded him of Eve's mother.
Author Susan Fletcher cleverly hints at various dramatic incidents that unfold throughout Eve's life. But it isn't until the last chapters that these incidents are pieced together and the reader finally gets a picture of what really happens to Eve and how these events are related. As the proceedings become clearer, they irrevocably change the village, forcing Eve to face the ghosts of the past and look towards the future. Eve "holds up the past to the wind, uncloses her hand and just let's it go."
Memory and love are a powerful force in Eve Green. And of love - it patters into you, or it washes you clean of your senses. It can drip or become a downpour. It is also strange and manipulative. There's no doubt that Eve Green is a beautiful novel, but the real treasure lies - not just in Eve's emotional journey of self-discovery - but also in the picture that Fletcher paints of rural farm life and the ordinary lives of the people of Cae Tresanit. Powerful, poetic and visionary, Eve Green is what serious literary fiction is all about. Mike Leonard February 04.