'Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine' is Gail Honeyman's debut novel and wow is it good. This book had me from the very first page. I found it extremely hard to review, not because it was bad but in fact because of how damn good it was. Every single time I would type something, and it just did nothing for me, the words that I was writing simply didn't capture the book well enough. If you haven't noticed, this is me still struggling...
I decided to just go with it and write about it, we'll just see how it turns out shall we?
I absolutely loved this book and so much of it rang true for me. Eleanor is such a brilliant heroine, she's got some absolutely fantastic throwaway comments and she's just so different from your average character. It is this difference which really makes this book though. Besides, how many heroines from books and/or movies do you know who are called Eleanor?
When we first meet Eleanor, she is most definitely not fine and is 100% stuck in a rut. She scorns other peoples need for human connection and distances herself from everyone. Eleanor is a typical loner with the addition of a rather ironic superiority complex. She sees herself as better than everyone else which is in rather stark contrast to her actual situation. Eleanor lives a structured life with her day to day being more about needs than wants. She has a strict routine which she sticks to like glue, which includes everything from her clothes to her Friday night frozen pizza and bottle of vodka combination.
Eleanor's lonliness and withdrawal from society has clearly caused depression even if it does go unnoticed by her. Her commentary on depression is so wonderful when she describes it as a “fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted". Though it may seem like a throwaway line, it is both extremely important and incredibly accurate.
I found myself relating to her in a different way than I had ever related to any other character from a book. This is the quintessential 'don't judge a book by its cover' lesson. In the beginning, Eleanor seems very odd and difficult to relate to (even if we've all shared her thoughts on humanity once or twice) but once you get to know her and learn about her story and how well she has actually coped with everything she's been through, you develop a new respect for her as a character.
Everything changes when she meets the rather unhygienic IT guy, Raymond who she works with. He is Eleanor's antithesis in almost every single way possible. They end up walking back from work together one day and witness a man collapsing. Eleanor is roped into helping this man by Raymond even though she feels no sort of sympathy for him. This man is called Sammy and slowly her whole life and world view change as a result of this one man.
The book follows Eleanor’s journey from her thoroughly traumatic past to a future where she might have a life rather than just a mere existence. Through Sammy and Raymond and their many friends and family members, Eleanor begins to understand how important it is to have friends and people who actually care about you and how important it is to have that element of human connection.
This book is a brilliant commentary of how connected each and every person is. How any act of kindness, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem to you at the time is vital. Sammy teaches Eleanor about love and friendship and how people improve each others lives just by being there. He is the very first person to hold Eleanor's hand and to look at her in a completely non judgemental way. Alongside Eleanor and her snide world view, we learn how vital it is to look upon each other with kindness.
Whilst Eleanor Oliphant is most definitely not completely fine, she is one fantastically different, vibrant and brilliant heroine. In short, this book will make you want to invite every single person you know round for a cup of tea and a hug...even the weird ones.
This book is an absolute must-read!
I decided to try audible out because I have a long commute at the moment and listening to a great book is a great way to pass the time. I love reading books and I love a tangible book but with a commute come stops and changes as well as the tube. It just always seems like you can't ever really get deeply involved for fear of missing the station you need to get off at. It also always seems to happen that you arrive where you need to be just as you reach a particularly interesting part of the book and you have to put it down...so annoying. I will be doing a series of blog posts reviewing the books I have listened to on Audible as well as a review of Audible itself.
This is by far one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure of reading/listening to. It is a Sunday Times number one best seller for a very good reason. I was enthralled from the first second to the last. The plot was really strong and although I thought I had pretty much figured out what happened halfway through, there were still plenty of twists and turns that I didn't expect and the ending is strong. The terrifying thing about this story is just how realistic it is, how easily the abduction of a child can happen.
The story is told from multiple perspectives and all of those points of view are well written and the shift from person to person is very successful. It's very difficult for an author to keep changing perspectives all the time and do it successfully enough that you can follow the story easily. You get the perspective of the abductor, the abductee (Ellie) and of course her mother (Laurel). Through all of these characters, the story of what happened to Ellie unfolds before you like an intricate puzzle.
Ellie is 15 and undoubtedly the favourite child and when she goes missing everything dissolves and disintegrates for Laurel who is (understandably) in pieces and Ellie's father. She and her husband divorce and the struggle of keeping a marriage together is well documented by Laurel in this. This story is set ten years after Ellie goes missing, the year she should be turning 25. Laurel is clearly still hurting and still unable to cope and move on. She goes through her life on autopilot, going through the motions but never really living.
It is at this point that Laurel meets a charming stranger and his daughter who is so much like Ellie and all her questions about Ellie's disappearance come flooding back...
Well worth a read or listen
Audible link: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Crime-Thrillers/Then-She-Was-Gone-Audiobook/B07287CFP6?ref=a_a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1&pf_rd_p=c6e316b8-14da-418d-8f91-b3cad83c5183&pf_rd_r=Y8WN3RHG580QXQE5QAXB&
How To Stop Time is honestly one of the most incredible books I have had the privilege of reading. Matt Haig must be one of the best authors of our time. The attention he pays to not just a single character but multiple different characters, each with their own story, their own history. Every single character in how to stop time is unique and 3 dimensional. They are those characters that you come to love and by the end of the book, you don't want to let go of.
The characters that Matt Haig describes are those that stay in your heart, those people who you relate to on a human level. He brings pages to life using the light and dark of the human mind.
It is, to me, no wonder that Matt Haig is an international bestseller. How could he possibly not be? This is one of those books that makes you think, the type of book which keeps the brain ticking over and thinking. So rare in any book, something I have not experienced in years and yet so beautiful. It was a rare moment, opening this book and just knowing that this was it...this was that book that was for all intents and purposes a missing link.
It is such a difficult book to describe, how could I possibly describe something which fits into pages so beautifully and yet, as you read, brings about new realisations not just about humans in general but about yourself and who you are.
The book is split into sections which all correspond perfectly. We always come back to present day London and thus the comparisons between history and what is happening in our world right now are that much stronger. Here, we follow Tom Hazard who has lived through it all. We simultaneously discover his past and his present. We discover him as a person and how he has come to be who he is today by seeing his past, we see his present.
It is something that we never get to experience when it comes to other people. All we see is the face and where they are right this minute. We never get to see the behind the scenes, what the person you are looking at has been through to make them who they are today. What has brought them here and where will they go next?
Regardless of who you are and where you are in life, this book is really worth a read.