As the photo on the cover of Evvie by Vera Caspary, the author of the amazing mystery and movie Laura, is blurred, so is the atmosphere of the book itself. Written in 1960, Evvie has a 1930s pulp or noir mystery feel to it, although its subject would not have appeared in that genre.
Evvie is set during prohibiton. Louise and Evvie, knowing each other since grade school, are sharing an apartment. The worldly Evvie has been married at seventeen and divorced soon thereafter and is living on, according to her, her alimony. Louise, not so worldly, is a career girl, making a name for herself in an advertising agency. They party and drink at a time when drinking was illegal. They’re independent. They’re not chaste. They like men.
Less a mystery than a life narrative Caspary describes the life of two independent girls in an age when women were not supposed to be independent; rather they were supposed to marry and have children and keep house. Although you know at the beginning that something will happen to Evvie, it takes two thirds of the book to get there and it almost seems incidental. Told in first person by Louise, Evvie is a literary tale of the times. It’s a tale of love, both acknowledged and unrequited. It’s a tale of two young women who thought they knew everything, but in many ways were naive.
Her June 17, 1987 New York Times obituary contained the following: “In her 18 published novels, 10 screen plays and 4 stage plays, Miss Caspary’s main theme, whether in a murder mystery, drama or musical comedy, was the working woman and her right to lead her own life, to be independent.
In her autobiography, ”The Secrets of Grown-Ups,” published in 1979 by McGraw Hill, Miss Caspary wrote, ”This has been the century of the woman, and I know myself to have been a part of the revolution.”
”In another generation, perhaps the next, equality will be taken for granted,” she said. ”Those who come after us may find it easier to assert independence, but will miss the grand adventure of having been born in this century of change.”
Vera Caspary’s works are addicting and once you start reading her, you’ll want to read her entire output. Start with Laura (after which watch the movie and note the differences) and Evvie and Murder at the Stork Club. I’m just at the beginning of Bedelia.