Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page review – lives under the microscope

From war to class anxiety to feminism, this story of a long marriage is also a wonderfully evocative sketch of Britain in the 20th century

Philip Larkin summed up the trouble with long relationships in his poem “Talking in Bed”, a snapshot of a grim nightly intimacy in which it becomes “still more difficult to find / Words at once true and kind, / Or not untrue and not unkind”. Kathy Page brings this deadlock into sober focus in her portrait of a 70-year marriage. Harry Miles, born between the wars to working-class parents in south London, is a scholarship boy with a literary bent and an ambition to escape the “sooty little terraces” of his childhood. When he meets Evelyn Hill, from a background very like his own, he is instantly attracted to her “appetite for the better things” and her acerbic qualities: “quick judgement, a very strong ...