In Nick Drake’s song ‘Time Has Told Me’, the singer reminds himself that time has taught him ‘not to ask for more’. Diana Evans’s sparkling third novel, Ordinary People, is full of characters asking for more, while undervaluing the gifts life has bestowed upon them. Focusing on two couples – Michael and Melissa, and Damian and Stephanie – and their young children, it’s also a book fuelled by music; the title is taken from a song on John Legend’s 2004 debut album, Get Lifted, which is central to Michael and Melissa’s outwardly perfect relationship. The voices of Jill Scott, Millie Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Prince and Michael Jackson are rapturously evoked, along with the ominous counter-voice of south London police sirens and their ‘endless wail of trouble’.
Set largely between the new dawn of Obama’s election in 2008 and the death of Michael Jackson the following year, the novel begins with corporate responsibility coordinator Michael and fashion journalist Melissa moving, after thirteen years together, to Paradise Row in Crystal Palace, a ‘London the tube forgot’. They