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review 2017-07-13 18:28
Review: The Rehearsal
The Rehearsal: A Novel (Reagan Arthur Books) - Eleanor Catton

Eleanor Catton's debut novel is a brilliant exploration of the arts, sexuality, and, most significantly, the line that separates truth from fiction. Written as her Master's thesis, The Rehearsal shows the natural talent of Catton, who writes as intelligently and maturely here as she did in her prize-winning follow-up, The Luminaries. While Catton's work is far from the most readable of young authors today, it's undoubtedly some of the most intelligent and finely woven fiction I have ever seen. Each word is chosen with such foresight and precision that it's a wonder to me how she produces novels as fast as she does (were I capable of producing a work such as The Luminaries, I imagine it would take a lifetime.)

Set in an arts school following a scandal—a teacher's affair with an underage student—The Rehearsal may sound like your average morality play or Lifetime movie. It's far from it. At times, with its ambiguously drawn scenes and dramatic play of various relationships, I was reminded of a tamer David Lynch. And at times, especially as I was pulled into the story of the drama school, I was reminded of the darkness and mindfuckery of 2010's Black Swan. Make no mistake, however, Catton's creation is all her own.

As The Rehearsal opens, it may be hard to follow as the dialogue is horribly pretentious, but once the reader realizes that some of the story (and in ways, all of it?) is acting, one may assume that this staged speech was the author's intent. Thus a big foray into false memory, lies, and truth unveils itself. It's all so expertly crafted with little clues here and there, sparks of witty dialogue that highlight the play within a play (and “all the world's a stage”). It's never clear—at least it wasn't to me—when you're reading the “truth” and when you're reading the “reenactment” of the “truth.” One can make assumptions such as that the truth opens the novel and everything that follows is a reinterpretation; or that all is fabrication that leads to the truth in the end; or that those scenes with the most pretentious dialogue are clearly staged and everything else is reality. But in the end, they're all assumptions. Only the author possibly knows the truth. For me, that's okay. From my many years of reviewing books, however, I've noticed that there are many readers who H A T E such ambiguity. I recall now another similar novel I loved that also blurred the lines without ever directly revealing the real truth: Heidi Julavits's The Uses of Enchantment. And guess how many one and two star ratings that novel has.

The Rehearsal is so multi-layered that it is on one hand confusing, on the other, brilliant. It's not the sort of novel that a reader should expect answers from; it's a novel that intends to confuse you and blow your mind. Despite its seemingly “light” plot synopsis, The Rehearsal is the foundation on which Catton is building her genius.

Catton's third novel, Birnam Wood, is scheduled to be published later this year: https://www.victoria.ac.nz/news/2017/...

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text 2017-07-12 21:01
Exciting July Releases That Are On My TBR
A Paris All Your Own: Bestselling Women Writers on the City of Light - Eleanor Brown
A Name Unknown (Shadows Over England) - Roseanna M. White
The Diplomat's Daughter: A Novel - Karin Tanabe
Where the Light Falls: A Novel of the French Revolution - Owen Pataki,Allison Pataki
Seducing Abby Rhodes - J.D. Mason
Edward VII: The Prince of Wales and the Women He Loved - Catharine Arnold
The One I've Waited For (The Crystal Series) - Mary B. Morrison
The Cartel 7: Illuminati: Roundtable of Bosses - Ashley and JaQuavis,JaQuavis Coleman
The Truth We Bury: A Novel - Barbara Taylor Sissel

I finished only one book in June. I was quite shocked. I've started many and am hopeful that July will be a better month for reading. I've been out of sorts personally and physically. However, this list of books are right up my street and I'm sure are going to be awesome reads. I'm revisiting favorite authors and genres.

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review 2017-07-03 16:40
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is what society would deem "weird" - she is socially inept and tends to say exactly what she is thinking. She has a scarred cheek and wears the same practical clothes year after year. She is a creature of habit. She eats pizza and drinks vodka on the weekends. She has no friends. She's had the same (and only) job since she graduated college. She likes being average. But her world is turned upside down when the new IT guy, Raymond, walks out of work with her one day and they save an elderly mans life. Raymond and the old man, Sammy, teach Eleanor what it's like to have friends. They show her kindness and include her in their plans. They save her from a life of isolation.

This was a good book from start to finish. Eleanor has been through a lot and we see how her childhood has made her into the woman she is today. It gives us a reminder to not be so quick to judge someone; everyone has their own story. I enjoyed reading about her life and seeing her transform into someone capable of opening up and letting people in. I'm happy she found the courage and support to begin digging into her past so that her future could be bright and full of possibility.

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review 2017-06-29 03:57
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman
"I do not light up a room when I walk into it. No one longs to see me or hear my voice. I do not feel sorry for myself, not in the least. These are simply statements of fact." 

Eleanor Oliphant lived in her head more than she lived anywhere else. For her it was like the safest place and scariest as well. Having had a rough childhood she never knew how to cope up with a normal life. She was socially awkward; talked her mind and never bothered on how others looked at her. Her routine was the same from past 9 years, going to work, eating the same thing, talking to her mummy and finally spending her weekends with Pizza and vodka. She neither had friends nor any family to care for. Her colleagues made fun of her but she didn’t give a damn. 
The things that I’ve mentioned above might seem as if the whole book is lifeless or dry but trust me it ISN’T, not even a bit. It’s the most interesting book I have read this year. I loved Eleanor’s company throughout the book; there was never a dull moment. 

"Some people, weak people, fear solitude. What they fail to understand is that there's something very liberating about it, once you realize that you don't need anyone, you can take care of yourself. That's the thing: it's best just to take care of yourself. You can't protect other people, however hard you try. You try, and you fail, and your world collapses around you, burns down to ashes."

Her story from her point of view was beautiful, intriguing and insightful to read and in fact she was on my mind even when I wasn’t reading. I liked that she never pitied herself for what she is. Sometimes I felt as if, may be, Eleanor is completely fine but the world that she lives in isn’t. In this friendless world she finally finds a pal (Raymond, I had to mention him) though she never intended to. Although, Raymond is a secondary character in this book but, to me, he is one of the key characters who help Eleanor to see life in a positive way. He never forces his opinion on her, nor does he intrudes in her life unnecessarily, but still whatever small changes that he brings in Eleanor’s routine helps her to cope of with her loneliness.

I loved the author's writing style, it was just perfect in every sense it was funny, quirky, sensitive and emotional. Also, the character development of Eleanor was amazing, the changes that takes place in her was uplifting to read. All I can say is Thank God I read this book otherwise I would have surly missed a great book.


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review 2017-06-15 04:22
A touching story about an adult that finally comes of age!
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman, author; Cathleen McCarron, narrator

Eleanor Oliphant can only be described as somewhat strange and unlikable when you are first introduced to her. She seemed to be neurotic and unapproachable. Although she seemed quite intelligent, she was socially unskilled, often abrupt, always formal, and usually abrasive. She rarely thought before she spoke and her judgments of others were sometimes painfully critical, showing little regard for their feelings. She interpreted everything literally, but seemed naïve or completely unaware of how her responses were affecting those with whom she interacted at work or in public places. She seemed unaware of most things that others took for granted, like concerts and McDonald’s. What a manicure entailed was foreign to her. Her hair hung down to her waist and had not been cut for years. She required little in the way of vanity.

The narrative hints at some evil doing in her past, but it rolls out slowly as the story evolves and nothing is elaborated or explained until very late in the book, although, early on, it is obvious that Eleanor’s childhood home life was not stellar. She had little memory of her past, although she might be unconsciously refusing to bring it to the light of day. She had been abused, and as a child she learned exactly how she was expected to behave at the hands of a very disturbed parent. She carried the same lessons into adulthood, and she spent most of her time alone seeking refuge and company from the vodka bottle rather than other human contacts. She was friendless, except for a plant that was a childhood gift. She had no physical contact with any other human being. She followed the same routine, day in and day out. She did not believe that she was worthy of respect, but rather she believed she was incapable of success or of having a normal happy life. In addition, her face was somewhat scarred from a previous event in her life which is not revealed until late in the book. Early on, though, it became obvious that her mother was and she had an adversarial relationship. It was she who was responsible for Eleanor’s lack of confidence and odd behavior. Although at first she was not a character that you became endeared to, by the end, as she blossomed with the help of her friend and co-worker, she became a far more sympathetic figure.

This co-worker, Raymond, was walking with her, one day, as they left their place of work. Although she was trying not to encourage this conversation, when they both suddenly witnessed an elderly man taking a bad spill in the street, Raymond insisted they help the unconscious man. He ran over to see what he could do. Eleanor wanted to flee the scene and mind her business. She did not like social interaction and preferred total privacy. Soon, however, Raymond shamed her into helping him and a friendship of sorts developed between the two of them and, eventually, the family of the man they helped to rescue. It was about this same time that Eleanor discovered a musician that struck her fancy, and she fantasized a love affair and life with him sometime in the future. She convinced herself that it was written in the stars for both of them to be together. She was sure that once he met her he would be as smitten with her as she was with him.

It felt like a tragic story, but Eleanor and Raymond brought a certain amount of humor and levity to the novel with their camaraderie.  Often Eleanor’s comments were so outrageous, they filled the pages with an awesome, unintended wit. She had no understanding of the nuance of certain of her remarks. As she began to “come of age”, with the help of her first, and pretty much only, friend Raymond, she experienced a period of self-discovery and began to remake herself, finally letting go of her painful past and welcoming others into her life; She discovered that she might not be so bad after all. She morphed from a wallflower that remained outside the perimeter of life, into a more communicative human being as she learned how to share feelings and experience emotions and love, without fear. 

Her character was completely and authentically developed by the author. She began as a kind of tragic heroine but with Raymond's kind heart and his attention and friendship, which he almost forced upon her, Eleanor discovered her own heart and capabilities and saw a path to happiness.

One lesson of the novel is that relationships can be both positive and negative and can change the outcome of a life if allowed to flourish for either good or evil. It is up to you to improve your circumstances and leave excuses behind. The positive support and concern of professionals, friends and family is very important and influential!




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