I wasn’t planning on reading much this evening, but picked up a very short book, “Evenings at Five” by Gail Godwin. I read it at one sitting, in record time, but slowly.
The book is only a few pages more than one hundred long, and several of those pages, in the first edition that I own, are simply illustrations. So we have a short work, one that could have been published in a literary magazine as well in book form.
Christina is a writer and her husband, a composer has died, and the book is an elegy to their relationship, and the story of his illness and death, and how she coped. It is a simple book, written in simple language. And it is quite beautiful and touching.
Yes it is fiction, but it is apparently highly fact based, as Godwin’s companion of 30 years, composer Robert Starer, who shares many personal characteristics with the Rudy of the book, had just passed away. So it is a very personal book.
A year or so ago, I read through Joan Didion’s similar book, “The Year of Magical Thinking”, which I didn’t appreciate nearly as much. It was not quite as elegaic. It did not draw me in.
And then I realized that there were other similar books that I have read, including Morton Kondracke’s “Saving Milly”, written when his wife was dying of complications from Parkinson’s disease. I have not read John Bayley’s book about Iris Murdoch, nor Calvin Trillin’s book about his late wife.
I think I will.