The New Yorker: Diana Evans’ Ordinary People Blends Domesticity and Celebrity, with a Gothic Twist

A character in Diana Evans’s new novel, “Ordinary People,” is reading “War and Peace.” The message is clear. Evans, the author of two previous books, has earned comparisons to Dickens with her panoramas of a jumbled, multitudinous London, but Tolstoy remains her spirit guide in how he intertwined the public and the private, the momentous and the mundane. Evans’s characters are navigating milestones of contemporary blackness: the novel opens at a party thrown in honor of Barack Obama’s Presidential victory, in 2008, and closes in the aftermath of Michael Jackson’s death, the following year. It name-checks stars like John Legend (the book shares a title with one of his songs), Ja Rule, and Venus and Serena Williams. But “Ordinary People” is less invested in the celebrities that serve as its touchstones than in the diaphanous experience of its non-famous protagonists.

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