Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman | Review

I should preface this review by saying I’m finding it very difficult to write about this book without spoiling the plot completely so this may not be the most engaging review I’ve written for this blog but I really do encourage you all to read it!

What struck me about ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman* was the character of Eleanor. I found her to be complex, intriguing, relatable and completely unlikeable for most of the book. As someone who has often struggled to fit in, I instantly connected to Eleanor’s loneliness and the comfort she took in her rigid routine. A boring, mindless job followed by an evening of drinking alone and eating oven cooked pizzas from Tesco is a routine I’m sure many readers will have experienced have experienced at some point in their lives. However, as we learn later in the novel, what sets Eleanor apart is that his routine is a coping mechanism and her way of dealing with some truly awful experiences.

Honesty, I found it difficult to get into the story at first. The opening felt as though it was dragging on.  I appreciate this being a plot device to highlight the monotony of Eleanor’s life, however, I feel it may put many people off and make them give up on the book early meaning they miss out on some really interesting character development. I also found Eleanor’s arrogance and judgemental nature to be very frustrating at times, although I forgive her for the things she says about her colleagues -they don’t seem like nice people at all.

When I first read the synopsis of this book I was intrigued but I also had some slight trepidation. It sounded as though it was going to be one of these stories where a woman falls in love with a man and is suddenly a better person because of it. Whilst there is definitely an element of that in the novel it is not the focus and it is dealt with well. Eleanor has an obsession with Raymond, an average (at best) musician, she seems willing to look past all his so called flaws because she is so infatuated with him. In actual fact, Eleanor’s feelings for him and the relationship that builds throughout the novel is only a fraction of the plot. The standout theme of the story is trauma, how it affects people and the lengths people will go to in order to cope with some awful experiences and just how difficult it can be to live a ‘normal’ life when someone has lived through said trauma.

In the simplest terms, this story says a lot about the judgments we pass on others and assumptions we make about people who don’t behave to our standard of normal. This is shown through Eleanor’s own prejudices and those of her co-workers who make very snap judgements about her. It is also reflected in the reviews of this book, with many people admitting they assumed Eleanor had Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism when they first started reading. This book challenges our assumptions about Eleanor and other people who we have deemed to be ‘odd’ or different.

Please don’t let a slightly slow start deter you from a fascinating, hilarious, surprising and heartbreaking read.

Have you read ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

*An early copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher via NetGalley, however, all opinions are my own and I am not being paid for this review*

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry | Review

*Trigger Warning: This book includes scenes of self-harm and rape.*

There is nothing more exciting to me than getting stuck into a mystery or a thriller. So, when I read the description of ‘Blood Sisters ‘ by Jane Corry about two sisters, fifteen years on from a horrific accident who are being watched and followed by somebody who is desperate for revenge, I HAD to read it.

The story is split between the perspectives of two sisters, Alison and Kitty. Even before knowing all the details of the accident, it is clear that both women have been deeply affected by it. Kitty suffered severe brain damage and is unable to walk and struggles to communicate as a result. Corry was very respectful in her depiction of Kitty and effectively portrayed the character’s frustration at being unable to communicate what she was thinking to those around her. Corry also did a brilliant job at portraying the way people with disabilities are treated so poorly by society. From relatively minor things such as using a patronising tone to bigger issues such as not trusting people with disabilities to care for children.

Unlike thrillers I have read in the past, ‘Blood Sister’s starts off slowly, very slowly. In fact, it wasn’t until I was over halfway through the book that I felt things were beginning to pick up. I know even thrillers can’t be fast paced all the time and, sometimes, a slower narrative is key to building tension, but in this case, the pacing of the story was unnecessarily slow at times.

To me, neither of the girls were very likeable. Alison in particular, I struggled to empathise with from the very beginning and couldn’t understand a lot of the decisions she made. Whilst I don’t know if this was Corry’s intention, it made certain revelations about Alison and her involvement in the story far less shocking for me personally. Having said that, one of my favourite things about the story was the ambiguity between which sister was ‘good’ and ‘bad’. I think my dislike for both girls really helped play into that.

Some details of the story felt a little inaccurate. Often when reading fiction, I’m able to suspend a certain amount of disbelief (it is made up, after all!) however, some of these things were founded in reality and were so integral to the plot that I found it difficult to overlook. For example, I didn’t understand why prisoners who were clearly very dangerous were being held in an open (and seemingly minimum security) prison. Granted, I’m no expert in the criminal system, so if I am being unfairly critical, please correct me!

It was completely by chance that I stumbled upon this book so I’d not heard of Jane Corry before. After doing a bit of research, I am curious to read her other book ‘My Husband’s Wife’ as I’ve heard brilliant things about it.

Have you read ‘Blood Sisters’? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

*An early copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher via NetGalley, however, all opinions are my own and I am not being paid for this review*

 

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter | Review

Dystopian fiction is a genre I’ve really been enjoying over the last couple of years, so when I read the blurb of ‘The End We Start From’ by Megan Hunter*, I was really excited to get my hands on it. The story follows a woman and her newborn baby, named Z, who are forced to flee London after the city is submerged in flood waters. Often dystopian novels are founded on the concept of a corrupt government so to read an apocalyptic style story focused on a natural disaster was a nice change.

The juxtaposition of a dystopian story being focused on a newborn was an interesting one. Birth and new life are usually used to represent hope and a fresh start and in this instance, we have the opposite effect. Throughout the novel, we see Z grow and develop despite London and the lives of all the characters slowly deteriorating. The woman (whose name is never mentioned) tracks her journey of new motherhood and highlights the worry that now her life has changed in such a drastic way, motherhood is all she has, “It is all I have”.

Each character is referred to by an initial rather than a name. It was unclear whether this was an element of their world or whether it was the narrator’s personal way of referring to everyone. As a technique, it was really effective in showing the anonymity and uniformity of each character in the story. Since fleeing their homes, all the characters have been stripped of their individuality. It was also reflective of the way we view and speak of people who are in similar situations in real life. When we see similar scenes on the TV, of people fleeing their homes due to war, or natural disaster, we reduce them to numbers and fail to see them as individual people. When the baby is born, there is a discussion about what they should be called, a few more traditional names are suggested before the characters settle on Z, as if they know the looming disaster will rob them of any personal identity they have.

What struck me the most about this novella was the paratactic writing style. At times it felt more like reading a poem than a piece of prose. There was very little detail about the characters and their lives before the disaster. However, this is not detrimental to the development of the story in any way apart from feeling a little detached from some of the characters. It allows the story to move along at a good pace without having to dwell on details, the story begins instantly rather than spending half the book on world building and character development.

 

Throughout the book, I kept thinking how interesting it would be to see the story adapted into a play so I was really excited to hear that Benedict Cumberbatch’s company are adapting it into a film!

Have you read The End We Start From? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

*An early copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher via NetGalley, however, all opinions are my own and I am not being paid for this review*

 

Not Working by Lisa Owens | Review

The description of ‘Not Working’ by Lisa Owens * appealed to me as it was about a Claire, who is newly and voluntarily unemployed. The novel follows Claire’s job hunt, the consistent rejections and all the stress that come along with that. As someone who has found myself unemployed for most of my gap year, I was excited to connect with her character and see if our experiences matched up. In the beginning, I felt a strong sense of empathy towards Claire, particularly the way she fixated on the small details in her life and often blew tiny problems way out of proportion.

I also really loved the format of the book. It was split into lots of very short ‘mini-chapters’ within each of the much longer chapters. This is a very different and a really interesting layout to any other book I’ve read before. It felt like we were looking at thirty-second snapshots of Claire’s life which allowed us to learn a lot about her life, relationships and current circumstances without taking up too much of the book.

Unfortunately, this is where my praise for this book ends. Nothing really happens, plotwise. At first, I thought all the little details we’d picked up along the way were building up to one huge plot twist, however, I’m currently 80% of the way through (seriously considering stopping there) and still, nothing has happened. Everything is just plodding along, day after day. Besides a couple of meetings with friends and a very brief spell of employment, nothing particularly exciting has happened. Of course, that is a very accurate representation of real life but, personally, I read books to escape the boredom of real life, not to be reminded of how ordinary my life is!

Only one plot point really springs to mind as bringing any sense of drama which is the so-called argument between her and her Mother. Even then, it was only treated as a secondary plot point rather than the main source of tension. It was also very frustrating reading about the way Claire’s mother dodged her calls and all attempts to make amends for what seemed like months. It seemed very immature.

If you’re looking for a relaxing, true to life story, I’d absolutely recommened this book. That’s just not what I look for when I’m reading, so, unfortunately, this isn’t the book for me.

Have you read ‘Not Working’? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

*An early copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher via NetGalley, however, all opinions are my own and I am not being paid for this review*