My first experience with a Harriet Evans novel reminds me of my first taste of Entenmann’s Marshamallow Iced Devils’ Food cake. For those of you unfamiliar with this indescribable treat, suffice it to say that eating it is something you’ll remember long after the last bit is gone. It’s sweet, it’s textured, the icing is an extra added bonus, and it gives a heck of a lot of pleasure. And there is not a crumb left when you are done. Enough said.
I Remember You is the story of two people and a town. Yes, the town of Langford figures as prominently in this novel as the two protagonists, Tess Tennant and Adam Smith, thirty-somethings who grew up there together as best friends and playmates, and for one painful summer, something quite a bit more. After that summer, Tess leaves Langford and Adam behind and escapes to University in London, where she becomes a classics teacher and tries to start a new life. Twelve years later, she finds herself made redundant in her old job and, back in Langford, takes up a position teaching classics to adults. Adam is still there, still mourning the death of his mother and living a life no one expected of him a decade earlier.
When circumstances force Tess and Adam to confront their past, Tess realizes that she really doesn’t know her best friend at all, or perhaps she knows him too well, and resolves to finally move on from their complicated past. On a trip to Rome, she meets someone else who makes her question her quiet country existence, and almost simultaneously discovers the secrets of Adam’s past, which puts him in a new light in her eyes and the eyes of the town they grew up in.
Harriet Evans writes with an almost lilting air. Her prose is sharp, her descriptions of places and people clear and full. Her secondary characters, in fact, all the townspeople of Langford, figure prominently in making the reader see and understand Tess and Adam’s long history. A lesson in conservation is cleverly tucked into the story, as a water meadow development figures prominently in the plot, but not to the point where it gets preachy and tiresome.
Like my Entenmann’s cake, the ending is sweet, and it lingers on your tongue for awhile. I’m already looking for another Harriet Evans novel to devour.