The Light Of Evening
The novel opens in the latter half of the 20th century. Dilly, bedridden in a small rural Irish hospital, reminisces about her past as she waits for the arrival of her eldest daughter, Eleanora. She recalls her early life, her strong desire to leave home, and her subsequent return. A large part of the novel’s first half explores Dilly’s time spent in Brooklyn, in the late 1920s, when she arrives in America with dreams of success and adventure only to be sorely disappointed. After a failed relationship and her brother’s death, Dilly returns to Ireland, marries a wealthy man, Cornelius, and moves to his rustic estate, Rusheen, where they raise their two children. Most of the second half of the novel follows Eleanora, who moves to England, begins a successful writing career, and marries an older novelist. Soon she divorces him and begins a series of affairs. Through this time, mother and daughter are constantly at odds. Despite Eleanora’s reluctance to return to Ireland, it is all she writes about. At the end of the novel, they reconcile in a surprising way.
O’Brien’s complicated subject is reflected in her compelling style. She shifts from Dilly’s first person narrative to the third person in Eleanora’s. Her characters’ complex emotions and thoughts are reflected in the prose and in their journal entries and letters. This is an exceptional novel about passion, family, and time.