Before I had the children, with every spare moment I got, you would find me curled up on the couch or tucked up in bed, completely engrossed in my latest novel. And even now, in the same way that I love to write, reading will always be one of my favourite ways to pass the time on the rare occasion I get a moment to myself.
This year I was so honoured to be asked to work alongside some fantastic bloggers and the Mumsnet team to join the 2018 Mumsnet Book Club. Running since 2007, the Mumsnet Book Club has seen monthly book reviews, live web chats with the authors and discussions with literary legends. If you’d like to join in, you can find out more about it here.
The first title for 2018 is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, a debut novel by Gail Honeyman, winner of a Costa Book Awards for 2017, and from the very moment I started reading, during a luxurious child free train journey to London, I didn’t stop until I turned that very last page.
Eleanor Oliphant is a strange character, very set in her ways, sticking rigidly to her daily routine, and quite out spoken about her likes and dislikes. At first I found her quite irritating, hugely frustrating and so difficult to understand, but as the novel progressed and we start to understand the reasons behind Eleanor’s behaviour, that irritation fast turns to sympathy.
It turns out that Eleanor hasn’t had the greatest start in life, infact her childhood was really quite tragic, with a Mother who failed her on so many levels. We are given some clues into the events of her childhood with the prominent scar Eleanor has on her face, the vodka she drinks by the bottle, and the weekly phone calls with an abusive Mother who, despite her failings, Eleanor still desperately wants to please.
But the saddest thing for me, and one which I think we can all relate to on some level, is the recurring theme of loneliness. Eleanor describes that isolation with painful clarity, and there are times throughout the book where I could have wept, and often did, for a very misunderstood individual who is simply looking to experience a love she has been deprived of during her life so far.
“I took one of my hands in the other, tried too imagine what it would feel like if it was another person’s hand holding mine. There have been times when I felt that I might die of loneliness.”
And so when Eleanor sets her sights on the man of her dreams, she comes up with a plan – one she believes will bring her true happiness and finally the approval of her Mother. What she doesn’t foresee is that sometimes, even the best laid plans don’t come to fruition.
Throughout the course of the novel I went through a whole rollercoaster of emotions, from amusement to heartbreak all in the turn of a page, and yet it was the surprise twist at the end which really got me, so much so that I found myself wiping away my tears on the train and drawing a gasp as I realised I had been holding my breath all along.
I won’t ruin the ending for you, but I will say that Gail Honeyman draws in the reader in such a way that when you finish that final page, you are left feeling as though you have said goodbye to an old friend. Eleanor Oliphant is an extraordinary character living an ordinary life, and as far as heroines go, they don’t get much better than this.
“How brave are you prepared to be Eleanor?” Laura asked. This was the correct question. I am brave. I am brave, courageous, Eleanor Oliphant.”
You can buy the book here on Amazon priced at £3.99 >>> Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Debut Bestseller and Costa First Novel Book Award winner 2017