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Sunday 28 April 2019

‘Call Me Evie’ by J.P. Pomare

Published by Sphere,
18 April 2019.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-7651-1 (HB)
978-0-7515-7388-6 (TPB)

A middle-aged man and a teenage girl arrive in an isolated beach town in New Zealand and establish themselves in a tumbledown house with few neighbours. The man’s name is Jim, we are told, and that of the girl is Evie. They have to live a secluded life, Jim tells Evie, because way back in Melbourne, where they lived before, she did something terrible and someone might find her. In order to stop them being recognised Jim shaves all her hair off, and then his own. But Evie can’t remember what it is that she is supposed to have done.

However, some memories do come back: for one thing, her name is not Evie but Kate. Her mother is dead – possibly suicide, possibly something else – and her father ever since looked after her. But Kate/Evie can’t remember her father and she has no idea who Jim is. She begins to remember her life at school in Melbourne and her friendship with a girl called Willow, a destructive friendship particularly when a romance between Kate/Evie and a boy called Thom begins to blossom and Willow is jealous. Kate/Evie knows that something dreadful happened involving Thom; but was it something she did or something someone else did? But in the present in New Zealand Kate/Evie is on heavy medication administered by Jim and the more she tries to get away from his iron grip back to Melbourne and what she remembers as being happier times the more remorseless Jim’s grip becomes. And there definitely are people who are watching them both, and do the neighbours, particularly a boy called Iso who does seem to be anxious to establish a relationship with Kate/Evie, know more about her than she knows about herself?

Essentially this is a novel about buried memories and the recovery of those memories and whether, when recovered, they are truthful. The narrative is from the point of view of Kate/Evie – Kate in the past tense when recollecting her time in Melbourne, Evie in the present tense when in New Zealand, both skilfully woven together and constituting a dramatic tale in which there can be no certainty. Recommended
Reviewer: Radmila May

J. P. Pomare grew up on a horse-racing farm in small-town New Zealand with his three older siblings and his father. He left for Melbourne where he developed his craft, entrenching himself in the Australian literary community. For almost two years he produced and hosted a podcast called On Writing, interviewing almost thirty local and international authors including Joyce Carol Oates, John Safran, Dorthe Nors, E. Lockheart, Chris Wormersley, and Sofie Laguna.  He has been published in several journals and has also won a number of prizes include the KYD Unpublished Manuscript Prize. Call Me Evie is his first novel.

Radmila May was born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology – and is now concentrating on her own writing.

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