New Release Book Review: Evening in Paradise by Lucia Berlin

Evening in Paradise…

About the Book:

The publication of A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin’s dazzling collection of short stories, marked the rediscovery of a writer whose talent had gone unremarked by many. The incredible reaction to Lucia’s writing – her ability to capture the beauty and ugliness that coexist in everyday lives, the extraordinary honesty and magnetism with which she draws on her own history to breathe life into her characters – included calls for her contribution to American literature to be as celebrated as that of Raymond Carver.

Ranging from Texas, to Chile, to New Mexico and New York, in this collection Berlin writes about the good, the bad and everything in between: struggling young mothers, husbands who pack their bags and leave in the middle of the night, wives looking back at their first marriage from the distance of their second.

Evening in Paradise is a careful selection from the remaining Berlin stories – a jewel box follow-up for Lucia Berlin’s hungry fans.

My Thoughts:

I had never actually heard of Lucia Berlin prior to receiving this collection of short stories. Her short bio indicates that she led a colourful life and the stories included in this collection are reminiscent of the experiences indicated in her bio. Her style is rather conversational, witty and desperately honest, sometimes painfully so. Not all of the stories were to my taste, some were a little difficult to follow, almost rambling. Others were perfection, a little slice of somebody’s life you were invited to bear witness to. Many of the characters popped up in multiple stories, but at different stages of their life than when you had previously encountered them. It was interesting to see them within a different context, also from a different perspective. I can’t help but think that some of these stories are autobiographical, with the recurring themes and characters. For someone who generally doesn’t enjoy short stories, I found this collection to be very engaging.


Thanks is extended to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing me with a copy of Evening in Paradise for review.

About the Author:

Lucia Berlin (1936-2004) worked brilliantly but sporadically throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Her stories are inspired by her early childhood in various Western mining towns; her glamorous teenage years in Santiago, Chile; three failed marriages; a lifelong problem with alcoholism; her years spent in Berkeley, New Mexico, and Mexico City; and the various jobs she held to support her writing and her four sons. Sober and writing steadily by the 1990s, she took a visiting writer’s post at the University of Colorado in Boulder in 1994 and was soon promoted to associate professor. In 2001, in failing health, she moved to Southern California to be near her sons. She died in 2004 in Marina del Rey. A collection of her stories, A Manual for Cleaning Women, was published to great acclaim in 2015.

Evening in Paradise
Published by Pan Macmillan Australia
Released on 30th October 2018

8 thoughts on “New Release Book Review: Evening in Paradise by Lucia Berlin

    • I’ll probably only read one short story collection a year, and that’s usually to accommodate a reading bingo card. There’s two covers for this book, both of them equally as striking. The other one is a heavy glass ashtray in the centre of an all yellow background with the same circular text inside the ashtray. This one is my favourite but the ashtray cover possibly suits the stories better. There is a lot of smoking in each story!


      • It’s amazing, isn’t it? Like all the smoking in films….
        No one, repeat no one that I know (socially), smokes. (And I’d know if they did because you can smell it on their skin).

        I suspect that film makers are getting some kind of kickback to normalise smoking in their films, but I can’t imagine why contemporary authors do it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It really stands out for me in books too because I don’t smoke, and like you, no one in my family and social circles smokes either. I can’t credit why anything written in this century would include smoking. These stories were written in the 1960s through to the 1980s, but even in saying that, now that I think about it, an ashtray on the cover is probably not the way to go given what we now know about the effects of cigarettes. Even if the story is saturated with smoking, the cover shouldn’t convey this. They should have just stuck with the tiles. The ashtray one is the North American cover. I don’t think I’ve seen an actual ashtray since the 1990s but maybe they are still about in America.


  1. I was looking at this one to read, I’m sure this one is under the ‘forgotten classics’ on the Pan Macmillan site, hmm, I’ll have to go check. I decided against this one anyway. My father was a heavy smoker (chain smoker) until a horrific car accident left him in hospital for 4 months and as he was confined to bed he wasn’t allowed to smoke, once he left hospital he no longer craved cigarettes. I was a social smoker until I met my husband, he gave me an ultimatum – him or smokes! Unfortunately I chose the former. LOL. Don’t tell hubby I said that, I do love him dearly! 😁
    I told hubby if I give up smoking then he must give up drinking beer, he agreed until his dad said, ‘son, have a beer with me.’ Well, he can’t say no to his dad. Lol.
    My father-in-law was also a heavy smoker, not sure why he gave up, must ask hubby. None of his 6 kids ever touched a cigarette and neither do any of their spouses smoke or his 10 grandchildren and their partners, which I find pretty amazing, you’d think out of 29 family members at least one would be a smoker but nope.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Bingo Blunder: When organised chaos just becomes chaos | Theresa Smith Writes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s