This is the book that almost killed reading as a pasttime for me. I say “almost” because I managed to put it down in time and not force myself to finish it because I paid money for the book and because I don’t like to have half-read books on my shelves.

Evening is ‘laborious’ in many ways – it’s laborious to read and I’m sure, to write. Samarasan received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, and you can almost hear the voices and critique of her peers in Evening in the long-winded verbose style of writing, as if trying to accommodate everyone’s suggestions for a better way of describing an event, a thing, a place, a feeling. In the end, this book reads like a thesaurus. It feels like someone tried to join the words in a thesaurus into a plot and story.

I struggled to get to the 100th page, a marker I usually use as the point where I decide if I like a book or not. For evening, I went up to page 200 just to give it a second chance and still I did not like it. I waited in vain for the painful multi-descriptions to stop but Samarasan persisted.

No doubt, the storyline is there – a death in the family, a mystery as to how it happened, ghosts in the house seen only by the youngest child, race riots in a turbulent time, and a marriage gone stale – all set during Malaysia’s first years after Independence. It’s just the writing style that irks me. It irks me even to think about the book and I’m glad I stopped reading it before it turned me against reading altogether.

If you like dictionaries and thesauruses, then you might enjoy this. Otherwise, it’s not a book I would recommend to anyone. One word – labourious. Or as Samarasan would put it – arduous, backbreaking, burdensome, effortful, fatiguing, forced, heavy, herculean, labored, onerous, operose, ponderous, rough go, stiff, strained, strenuous, tiresome, toilsome, tough, tough job, wearing, wearisome, wicked.

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