EVA'S MUSIC by Patricia Chute
Kirkus Star


Email this review


In this quietly wise and radiant first novel, a young woman, snug in her secure family niche, is forced to find her own ""style""--apart from, but never divorced from, those she loves. Eva is the ""good,"" untroublesome Wiltshire child. Her father is F. Lawrence Wiltshire (""Opa""), an immensely successful producer of Broadway plays. Mother is essayist/critic Elizabeth, of the N.Y. literati. Her brothers are surly, ""nutty"" naturalist Adrian--and James, who's finally settled down to running a tennis camp. But now, at 26, having drifted pleasantly enough, propelled by little bursts of loving (an enthusiasm for the harp was one happy result at Sarah Lawrence), child Eva is suddenly pregnant and unwed. Her erstwhile lover in Cambridge, Calvin Fosdick Bainbridge, is an Old Boston headmaster who's horrified that Eva won't have an abortion. Moreover, while dumping this disappointing swain, Eva is also grieving: her mother--fastidious and apart in her work, but generous and delicately perceptive in her loving--is dying of cancer. And, as Mother quietly plans the pace and character of her last months, choosing to stay as long as possible on her beloved Martha's Vineyard, Eva feels the exhilaration of being needed: Mother has chosen her to act as a buffer among Opa, Adrian (visiting from Africa with his Nigerian wife), and James--possibly more mutually abrasive in their suffering. Then, too, as Eva shares the days of Mother's dying, she falls in love--with Billy Diamond, a songwriter and arranger. So the summer is fevered, fulfilled: love's roistering give-and-take, its unearthly levitations; the grace and beauty of a gallantly dying woman; complex intra-familial management as members demonstrate their love in various ways. By summer's end, however, the idyll will fade--with a birth, a death, a separation from Billy. (Eva keeps the pregnancy secret as long as possible from him--and pays a price.) And finally, with family scattered, ""there is nothing but open space in front of me"" for Eva--till, through a new kind of love, and some quirky first steps alone, she'll at last hear her own music, ""independent and clear."" Bright, acute, unclouded recognitions within the misty matters of birth and death: a fine debut.

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 1983
Publisher: Doubleday