Video Book Review: The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle reads like a mash-up of Quantum Leap, Groundhog Day, and The Great Gatsby.
Our main character, Aiden, travels between different host bodies as he repeats the same day over and over, trying to solve the mystery of who killed Evelyn Hardcastle. The setting is a 1920s high society party at Blackheath manor.
It reminds me of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, written between 1378 and 1400. See my Instagram post below, by the way, for the traumatic experience I had with Canterbury Tales. Enjoyable in theory. Torture in practice.
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Just finished editing my latest #booktube video (new ones every Thurs at YouTube.com/readremark!) and in it, I mention The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. . It took me back to my college years when, as an English lit major, I read a good portion of The Canterbury Tales in its original Middle English. . You would think, as an English major, that I would have relished the opportunity to play with words and sounds and etymology and dive into this time capsule of a piece. But no. . It. Was. TORTUUURRRE. . Take this excerpt: . “The Millere is a cherl; ye knowe wel this. So was the Reve eek and othere mo, And harlotrie they tolden bothe two. Avyseth yow, and put me out of blame; And eek men shal nat maken ernest of game.” . Basic gist: the Miller and the Reeve are both churlish and like to tell lewd stories. So don’t blame me. . Bless his everloving heart, Chaucer is a revolutionary and steadfastly important figure in literature. But boy am I glad for modern translations of that one. . #bookstagram #bookreviews #booknerdigans #booksofinstagram #instagrambookclub #reading #bookphotography #bookrecommendation #recommendedreading #amreading #mybookshelf #bookworm #bookphoto #bookstagrammer #bookblogger #booktuber #bookaddict #bookshelf #bookreview #books #shelfie #readersofinstagram #readinglife #bookphotos #bookrecommendations #reader
The Canterbury Tales is comprised almost entirely of its archetypes. The premise is simple: people are on a journey and compete for who can tell the best story. The individual stories are the interesting part, but even more so are the people who tell them. They represent and are defined by their different archetypes. The Wife of Bath, the Man of Law, the Clerk, the Cook, the Miller, the Merchant. The Friar. They are all representative of a character trait.
We see the same construct used in many other stories throughout history. Think of Murder on the Orient Express with the detective, the governess, the butler, and more. Or The Breakfast Club with the brain, the jock, the princess, the criminal, and the basket case.
And now with The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Turton uses the construct for the different archetypal hosts Aiden uses; the cop, the old widower, the corpulent man, the criminal, the shady doctor.
The benefit to this type of story is that the characters are almost instantly identifiable and relatable. We know in an instant who they are, they types of lives they lead, their economic situations, and much more.
The problem, one that’s explored in stories like The Breakfast Club, is that these archetypal roles can be confining. Characters are boxed in, trapped, and sometimes one-dimensional.
Turton solves this a bit by the very nature of Aiden’s hosts. He lives inside their brains and sees their longings and thought processes. At the same time, though, we barely get to know Aiden himself.
The main drawback to The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is that there’s just a bit too much wonderfulness. The guests overstay their welcome. The book could have been just as effective and much more tightly written had poor Evelyn suffered only 3 ½ deaths. By the surprising ending, I was exhausted and ready to just leave the party already.
Otherwise, the story is a lot of fun! It makes me want to dress up in my finest 1920s-era regalia and play a rousing game of Clue.
The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Published September 2018
Many thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for providing me with an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review. This book is scheduled for a September 18, 2018 release.
Watch this video and many other book reviews on my Read Remark booktube channel on YouTube.
Music credit: wistia.com