The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is one of my favourite books EVER! Yes, it is that brilliant!!! 🙂
This is such an uplifting, funny and moving novel that is being likened to Adrian Mole – a comparison I definitely agree with. From page one I was hooked, by page six my eyes were popping out my head and I was howling with laughter. And just like Adrian Mole, I really believe Evie Epworth will be celebrated for decades to come.
Published on 23rd July 2020, I urge you to preorder your copy of The Miseducation of Evie Epworth NOW!
Set in 1962 Evie is ‘as old as the hills (16½), as tall as a tree (5ft 11), and as wise as time (perhaps). A dog-loving, celery-hating, never annoying, always enjoying, at times corduroying, (brackets-deploying), daughter of Arthur, and the fastest girl with a milk bottle in East Yorkshire.’
With society on the cusp of change, Evie is ‘hurtling towards womanhood.’ However standing in her way is Christine, a manipulative gold-digger who has set her beady eyes on Arthur, Evie’s dad. With a bit of help from her friends, including her neighbour Mrs Scott-Pym and a heaped spoonful of Yorkshire magic, Evie tries to save poor Arthur from Christine’s money-grabbing clutches.
The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is a brilliant comedic coming of age story. It is the debut novel from Matson Taylor, a Yorkshireman through and through with a deep love of food. So much so, the theme of food vividly runs through this delicious novel, beautifully enhancing everything about it – the story, the characters, the comedy.
As we identified as fellow foodies, Matson very kindly gave me an interview focusing on the symbolic role food plays in the novel. He also reveals more about Evie’s character and her brilliant, quirky story.
Warning! The following content will make you hungry and crave a visit to the legendry Bettys (a personal favourite Yorkshire haunt of mine).
Q. I loved how you used food to symbolise Evie’s ‘coming of age’ journey. How did that arise and was that a conscious decision in your plot development?
A. Food had always been an important part of the book – the cakes, Bettys, the summer fete, and, of course, the recipe book… I wanted The Miseducation of Evie Epworth to be about growing up – going from childhood to adulthood and exploring what it’s like to inhabit that funny space between the two – and I wanted to use food to help trace this journey i.e. how our tastes change as we change. Chris, my editor at Scribner, really liked the food element to the book and encouraged me to pursue it. So I tried incorporating an actual recipe into a chapter (the ‘easy supper’) – I really enjoyed writing it. I love playing with form and a recipe that isn’t presented as a recipe but rather as part of the story appealed to me. Luckily Chris loved it and so I wrote a few more recipes into the book!
Q. This is a story mainly structured around female characters. The portrayal of food associated with these diverse women brilliantly shapes their individual characterisation. Can you tell us more about this?
A. I think my life has to a large extent been structured around female characters! And food is a key part of how I see those women – they all cook different types of food in different kinds of way and through that I’ve learnt that food is about so much more than just what’s on the plate. It’s like clothes, I suppose; food acts as a great shorthand to who we are or what we aspire to be – it’s another way that we present ourselves to the world and I wanted this to come through in the novel.
Q. The recipes in the narrative sound delicious, especially the French recipes. These particular recipes also portray a poignant, emotional element of the story. When reading the book I felt these recipes were close to your heart. Is that so?
A. One in particular is very close to my heart – it’s the easy supper recipe. I can remember mum making it when she wanted something quick and healthy. I used to love it. I can remember her big heavy cast-iron skillet pan and see her serving this lovely gooey, cheesy, tomatoey dish with poppy seed bread rolls. Delicious. The fairy cakes are personal too – mum used to make butterfly buns and I really loved helping her – she’d let me put the wings on the buttercream and, of course, lick spoon and bowl clean. Writing those scenes brought back some very lovely memories.
Q. Bettys is mentioned a lot in the book. Can you tell us where you got your inspiration for this from?
A. I grew up pretty close to York and we had some good family friends there so we’d often go and visit. As far as I was concerned our trips into York had three important parts… 1. rolling down the grass hill at Clifford’s Tower (this was years before the hill was fenced off!) 2. going to the Terry’s shop and stocking up on chocolate and 3. having afternoon tea or a late breakfast at Bettys. So I knew Bettys well from an early age and the habit has just stuck! Whenever I go back to Yorkshire to visit friends and family I try and get into York – and that always means a trip to Bettys. I was there just before Christmas with dad (we went to the Railway Museum) and I called in at Bettys to get some fat rascals for supper.
Q. If you had the luxury of going to Bettys now, what would you have?
A. That’s a great question – and such torture! I would LOVE to be able to get to Bettys at the moment. If I were there, I’d go for the full afternoon tea and then pick up some of the new gooey fat rascals to take away. I’m a big fat rascal fan and I’ve been treating myself during lockdown by having them delivered. I’m currently halfway through a box of mini rascals…
Q. Nowadays Evie would now be in her 70s. Do you think she would be an avid cook and baker? And if so, what culinary delights would she be creating?
A. Oh yes, I think she’d love cooking and baking. I can imagine her trying lots of new things – she has a huge curiosity about life and I can easily see that extending into food. I can definitely see her in the kitchen, radio on, with a glass of wine and a few dogs lolloping around cooking and baking. She’d probably be trying out some new recipes from a cookery show or the internet even – she’s someone who likes lists and I can see her happily working her way through more or less any recipe. Mind you, I also think she’d like the idea of not cooking all the time – she’d embrace the new world and would love ordering an exotic takeaway or some artisan treats (I’ve just discovered somewhere that sends out hand-iced biscuits – I think they’re delicious and I’m sure Evie would think so too!)
Q. In the novel Evie is very much a tea drinker but she does try coffee for the first time. Nowadays do you think Evie would be drinking Yorkshire Tea? And do you imagine her very much still a tea lover or more a connoisseur of coffee?
A. She absolutely would be drinking Yorkshire Tea! I think she’d have a pot for breakfast and then switch to coffee mid morning – she would very much be the type of pensioner who loves going out to coffee shops and meeting friends (and watching what all the youngsters are getting up to!). I can see her in the afternoon switching back to tea though – maybe a nice Earl Grey to have with a scone? And in the evening, if she isn’t following Mrs Scott-Pym’s example and having a sherry (or two), I think she’d have a fruit tea. I’m writing the second Evie book at the moment and coffee shops are definitely going to feature again…
Q. Do you consider yourself a foodie? Also are you a savoury or sweet man?
A. I’m a foodie in the sense that I love food! Everything. I get a great deal of pleasure from food and there’s nothing I love more than eating out with friends and trying something new. I live in London and you can find food from practically every country in the world here – it’s great. Having said that, I think my favourite food is a good Sunday roast – my aunt does a wonderful one and I have a few pubs nearby that do a very good one too. And I love cooking. I lived in Italy and Spain for quite a few years so I’m a dab hand with pasta and paella! I’m not good at following recipes (in fact I’m not good at following any instructions!) so I tend to improvise a lot. Things generally turn out ok and if they don’t, I find most culinary disasters can be improved by the addition of some grated cheese. As for sweet or savoury, I’m both – is that ok? I love savoury but I always need to have something sweet to finish a meal – often a couple of pieces of very dark chocolate and some nuts… I can’t finish with something savoury, it just doesn’t feel right.
Q. As soon as I finished reading Evie I tweeted about how brilliant it was. You replied saying that my tweet had convinced you to have crumpets for breakfast that day. 🙂 So I’m curious – what’s your favourite crumpet topping?
A. I’m a minimalist (or should that be traditionalist?) when it comes to crumpets. I have friends who put jam, peanut butter, cheese, marmite, beans, nutella etc on theirs but for me it’s always been butter and only butter. And it has to be proper butter too – thick creamy slices of it that melt through the holes and cover your fingers and face with a glistening buttery sheen. When I was younger they only made crumpets during the winter and I always got very excited when they appeared back in the shops around September/October. When they disappeared in the spring it left a big gap in my life, like when you take the decorations down after Christmas and everything feels strangely empty. I’m very pleased you can get hold of them all year round now and I often have a couple of crumpets and a cup of tea in the afternoon when I’m lucky enough to be at home writing.
Since finishing The Miseducation of Evie Epworth I have sorely missed her and her friends. However I’m so excited that Matson has revealed to us that we have more Evie adventures to come! 🙂
Thank you Matson for taking the time to give me such a fab interview but more importantly, thank you for Evie! Thank you also to the brilliant Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to the blog tour of this stunning novel. Being one of the first readers of Evie and being part of this blog tour is a true privilege. To follow the blog tour please see below.