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review 2017-11-18 09:36
"Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

I was wary of reading this book because I was told it was partly about loneliness and what it does to us and that sounds as much fun as reviewing the final stages of terminal cancer. I picked it up because it was consistently described as being well written.

 

It's more than well written. It's pretty much perfect.

 

There is so much understanding here of how day to day life really is, how we struggle with it, how loneliness colonises our lives like a carcinogenic mould until our lives become literally unbearable and how important small acts of kindness and regular honest contact are.

 

The book is written entirely from Eleanor Oliphant's point of view. It's a point of view quite unique to her, a product of her history, her isolation and the pressure of a trauma that she can only cope with by living a life as free from emotion as she can manage.

 

If you've ever been the unpopular person, the nutter, the lonely one, the one who genuinely doesn't get parties and small talk and the obsession with pointless television, then there are many points in this book where you will find yourself cringing with muscle-memory recognition of embarrassment and hurt. You can see exactly how Eleanor misreads things or behaves in ways that make other people dislike or dismiss or ridicule her. You know that she knows she's not easily likeable and that she has no idea what to do about it other than endure.

 

Eleanor starts from a worse place than most of us but many of us have walked parts of this path.

 

Eleanor is strong. So strong that she rejects help and deals on her own with what has happened to her and how it shapes her daily life. Eleanor is also vulnerable, fragile and in pain. Yet she makes the most of it. She tries to have a life. Most of the time.

In the first half of the book I became acclimatised to Eleanor's coping strategies, her constraints and her small acts of courage and began to hope for her, When bad times arrived they were devastating. There's no sugar-coating. No ducking of the issues. Just a bleak confrontation of reality. It is hard to take but it is worth taking because it feels true.

 

When better times arrive, not yet good times but much better than the times that preceded them, I could see and feel the slow, painful progress Eleanor was making. Her sessions with a counsellor are wonderfully done. I've always been resistant to the concept of psychotherapy but I understand what is being done here. It's imperfect and limited but so much better than the alternative.

 

The writing is excellent.  The characterisation is both subtle and clear. Modern life is closely observed and then relayed through the unique filter of Eleanor's perception. The emotions in the book are strong and real but not broadcast in soundbites or flash cards. If this was a movie, there would be no dramatic music, just close-ups of people being people.

 

This is one of my favourite books this year. I went to see what other Gail Honeyman books I could buy and then discovered that this is her debut novel. That's quite hard to take in. How do you come up with something this good from a standing start?

I listened to the audiobook version which is beautifully done. You can hear a sample below

 

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/319244987" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]

 

I've also included interviews with Gail Honeyman at bookpage.com and The Washington Independant Review of Books

 

gail honeyman

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review 2017-11-06 03:38
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

I started reading this due to it being highly recommended by other readers. After finishing this, I was so glad I did. Eleanor was such a creature of habit, and had no filter when it came to speaking her mind. Yet, once you get to know Eleanor, you reveal the many flaws she has and her story behind those flaws.
I found her so real, and could identify with many aspects of her personality.
The friendship she makes with Raymond was so sweet, I found myself cheering for them, even if it wasn't on a romantic basis.
The ending was very fitting of her development. It really made me smile.
I would highly recommend this to anyone!!

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review 2017-11-05 17:29
Anna Bradley nails another HR
Lady Eleanor's Seventh Suitor - Anna Bradley

OMG I LOVED THIS BOOK SO HARD! Cam is the worst autocrat. I mean really, he blackmails her into marriage. Talk about imperious and demanding. Yes, there are good reasons, but still. Much as I love my alphaholes, there were many ways for this to go so wrong. But in Anna Bradley’s brilliantly capable hands, I adored his underhandedness and ruthlessness. Of course, it made all the difference that Lady Eleanor was equally ruthless in her schemes not to be trapped by Cam.

 

There is so much collateral damage and heartbreak and stubborn stubborn people incapable of saying what they really mean. Absolutely delicious. Reward yourself with this book!

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review 2017-10-13 16:17
The Diary of a Young Girl / Anne Frank
The Diary of a Young Girl - B.M. Mooyaart,Eleanor Roosevelt,Anne Frank

I finally got around to reading this heart-warming and heart-wrenching document.  I attempted it as a much younger person and didn’t get very far, perhaps because I was a teenager myself with my own angst to deal with. 

 

There’s no doubt that Anne was right about her own writing abilities.  If she had lived, I think she definitely had a chance to become a significant author.  She could have edited her own diaries to begin with and perhaps written more about the Jewish experience during WWII.

 

I think her father (the only surviving member of those concealed in the Annex) was a brave man to allow her journals to be published.  He and his wife do not always come out of them looking good.  However, we, as readers, are continually reminded that the people confined in this small space are bound to clash with one another repeatedly.  Imagine having no space to truly call your own, having to share cooking & food supplies, not having easy access to a toilet and not being able to flush during certain hours, and having to be quiet during the workday so as not to alert the employees working below them!  Prisoners in jails have better living conditions!

 

I am also impressed by the courageous Dutch folk who hid their Jewish friends and kept them supplied with the necessities of life for so long.  That’s a big commitment and they fulfilled it for two years with very few glitches (health problems for all of them sometimes made for erratic food delivery).  How many of us would have the fortitude and the bravery to attempt such a feat?

 

The saddest part of the book was definitely the afterword—Anne’s last entry is absolutely ordinary (in an extraordinary circumstance) and then they are betrayed and sent to concentration camps.  They had lasted so long and the end of the war was just a year away (although they had no way to know that).  I was left with the melancholy question of what might have been.

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review 2017-09-07 15:44
Lady Eleanor's Seventh Suitor by Anna Bradley
Lady Eleanor's Seventh Suitor - Anna Bradley

Lady Eleanor Sutherland has, so far, refused five marriage proposals (well, six, but no everybody knows about that first offer). Her standoffish manner and her rebuttal of the even slightest attempts at flirtation, have earned her the nickname Lady Frost and her own page in the betting books. But the truth is, she isn't cold, she just refuses to settle for anything else but a love match.

Yet it looks like that's what she'll have to do, thanks to Camden West and his blackmail. The cad had the gall of making his cousin Julian trap Ellie's younger sister, Charlotte, in a compromising position in a darkened garden. So far, only the four of them know the truth about the "incident", but Cam is threatening to tell everybody, if Ellie refuses to marry him.

In the end, Ellie has only one option. Outsmart the villain without ruining her sister or her own life.


Oh. My. Sweet. Lord.

I chose this book for the cover (look at all the bright colors without one single naked male chest in sight) and the blurb. Usually, that's a recipe for a reading disaster, but this story was as far removed from any kind of disaster as it could possibly be.

I. LOVED. IT.

I immediately took to the heroine with her spunk, her determination, and her ability to send any man scurrying for cover, and I laughed out loud at her inner musings, especially when she decided occasion merited an unladylike curse or two. I adored her to bits, and I was skeptical as to what kind of hero she was saddled with. At first.
I didn't particularly like Cam at the beginning. He was acting fishy, and he severely underestimated his heroine. It was lovely reading about him scrambling to catch up and keep pace. Then, the puzzle pieces started to fit together, and although I still didn't approve of his tactics, I grudgingly understood his motive.
And then, well, then he got to know the real Ellie and started to show his own true self...And the rest is history. Is it any wonder Ellie fell for the guy? Who wouldn't? Especially after reading about his inner turmoil and his true feelings. Lordy!

These two were perfect for each other, both hiding deep inner scars, yet so utterly vulnerable in each other's company; each other's opposites, yet rather similar in many aspects. It was a pleasure reading about their "antics", the schemes, the struggles against any possible tender feelings for the other...
Theirs was a romance in a true sense of the word. They didn't like each other at first, distrusted one another, yet once they got to know each other, once they peeled away all those protective layers, acceptance and love blossomed. This is what I like in my romance stories. Not some insta-love, stretched-so-thin-it's-almost-transparent, implausible crap, but the "realism" of it all. How feelings and attitudes change (for better or for worse) as a person gets to know someone. How you have to know someone (and yourself for that matter) to give your trust, your forgiveness, and your heart.
Ellie and Cam's romance was believable, realistic, bitter-sweet and so beautifully written it made my heart flutter. There, I said it.
It wasn't perfect, it wasn't starry-eyed and their path was filled with obstacles (some of their own making), but it worked.

I couldn't say the same about the secondary romance between Cam's cousin and Ellie's sister, which worked as well, yet it didn't work out; and they have quite a long road (and an entire book) ahead of them. I'm looking forward to their story, even though I never quite warmed up to Charlotte, but maybe her rebellious tendencies will be explained in the next book.

I absolutely adored this story, from the characters (the little Amelia being my absolute favorite of the bunch), the voice, the narrative style and the flow it brought to the story, and the perfectly imperfect romance.

More, please.

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