Set in South London in 2008, Diana Evans’ new novel Ordinary People is a well observed commentary on modern marriage. The novel begins at an election party of Barack Obama, which sets the backdrop for the narrative. It follows the lives of two couples, Melissa and Michael, and Stephanie and Damian. Though grappling with separate issues, the couples are united by the novel’s overarching theme, ‘Ordinary People’ who are struggling to reconcile the dreams they once had with their everyday reality; marriage, parenthood, and suburban life.
Evans recounts their relationships in a deft voice. Michael is preoccupied with what he sees as lost passion in his relationship and his subsequent infidelity. Meanwhile his partner Melissa struggles with motherhood and her perceived loss of identity. She begins to unravel, believing their new house to be haunted, her escalating paranoia in step with the pace of her disintegrating marriage. Damian lives in Dorking, having moved at the behest of wife Stephanie in order to bring their two children up away from London. He struggles to come to terms with the recent death of his father, whilst continuing to navigate family life.
Though it imbues the characters’ lives, Evans avoids heavy-handed discussions of race. Instead, the theme is woven into the novel via well-observed dialogue from her characters, as well as the backdrop of the novel itself. Ordinary People undoubtedly finds its strength in the character development. Through the nuanced writing, Evans has produced a novel that is a realistic, slightly satirical observation of modern marriages.