Review, Uncategorized

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Rarely have I connected so quickly with or so desperately wanted happiness for someone as I did with Eleanor Oliphant. Despite her odd manner and the many funny (laugh out loud whilst reading on the bus funny) interactions she has with people around her, it was easy see through the odd quirks and behaviours to someone who just needs a little help and, as such, I found Eleanor to be one of the most sympathetic protagonists I’ve read about in a long time.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the debut novel of author Gail Honeyman and tells the story of a young woman who works in an office in Glasgow. Eleanor is set in her ways; she goes to work each day, gets the same meal deal for lunch, and buys a margherita pizza each Friday along with two bottles of vodka which she then drinks over the course of the weekend. Without really realising it, Eleanor is crying out for connection and friendship even though she thinks she is doing completely fine. Despite her strange manner and the funny and awkward interactions she has with the people around her, it  is easy from the very beginning see through the odd quirks and behaviours to someone who is a little lost and really just needs a little help and, as such, I found Eleanor to be one of the most sympathetic protagonists I’ve read about in a long time.

Throughout the book an unusual upbringing is hinted at, suggesting that Eleanor’s childhood experiences have had a huge impact on the woman she is today and the difficulties she faces in social situations, but more than anything the book is a fantastic commentary on the devastating effects of loneliness and how it can affect anyone at any age. When we talk about loneliness the conversation tends to revolve around the elderly,  however it seems like there are more and more young people that are suffering from loneliness and crippling social anxiety, despite there being more channels of communication than we have ever had before. I suspect I am not the only person who felt some striking similarities with Eleanor’s situation in the opening pages, and the book perfectly demonstrates how small gestures and displays of kindness by others can make such a difference.

One of the things I love about this book is that it’s just about the genuine human connections and friendships Eleanor realises she has. It’s not about grand romances or drama or being special, it is just about Eleanor finding people who accept her in a normal, everyday world.

I don’t want to say too much about the book, I went into it with very little knowledge of the plot, and think I enjoyed it all the more for that. What I will say is that this is a truly heartwarming (and at times heartbreaking) read that will stay with you for a very long time and every person I have spoken to about it or recommended it to has said the exact same thing.

Speaking of loneliness, I thought I would share one of my favourite performances of Robin Williams, a clip I watch often when I’m feeling lonely and one that is more poignant than ever given what has now passed:

Favourite Quotes:

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.” 

“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.”

“You can’t have too much dog in a book.” 

“You’ve made me shiny, Laura,” I said. I tried to stop it, but a little tear ran down the side of my nose. I wiped it away with the back of my hand before it could dampen the ends of my new hair. “Thank you for making me shiny.”   – This quote broke my heart a little bit.

“I pondered what else I should take for him. Flowers seemed wrong; they’re a love token, after all. I looked in the fridge, and popped a packet of cheese slices into the bag. All men like cheese.” 

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Review, Uncategorized

The Book Thief by Markuz Zusak

Why haven’t I read this earlier?!! A question that I am sure many others have asked themselves before. I’ve had this on my bookshelf for a good five years and have been meaning to pick up, I’m so glad I finally did!  To be honest, I remember being in a airport in France around 7 years ago and accidentally overhearing a girl talking in a very spoil-ery way about this book, so my justification is that I wanted to forget the spoilers she mentioned before picking it up – I am so glad I did.

Books don’t often make me cry (I can probably count on one hand the ones that have) but I can say that I cried at the The Book Thief. It made me cry, it made me smile, it made me despair for humanity in general.

Like most children in the UK I had a heavy dose of World War 2 knowledge dropped on me throughout my school career and have read many books and articles, seen many films and documentaries, and visited many museum and art exhibitions about that period, yet never fail be surprised to learn at yet another way humans managed to make each other suffer in those miserable years. On the other hand, it is always so heartening to learn about just how many good people tried to help each other, and the book wonderfully shed light on both aspects of wartime.

Whilst the book was perhaps initially aimed at a much younger demographic, I feel that there is much within the writing that you don’t appreciate unless you read (or reread) it as an adult, particularly Death’s rumination on humanity. An older perspective and deeper understanding on what happened and why things happened, adds greatly to the enjoyment of reading this beautiful book.

I loved Liesel, and Rudy, and Max, and Hans, and even Rosa. Rosa who’s forceful manner, again benefitting from having read from an adult’s perspective, you can immediately see comes from a place of love.

If you haven’t yet read this, I fully recommend doing so. The story of a young girl’s experiences through this terrible time, both positive and absolutely heart-breaking will stick with you. As will the wonderful people she meets, the caring foster family, brave young men, and adults who keep their gentleness hidden, you cannot fail to feel connected with every character in some way, and only hope that their kindness and heroism will somehow be rewarded in some sort of a happy ending, unfortunately like so many people during that time, this is not always the case.

Favourite quote: ‘A Last Note From Your Narrator: I am haunted by humans.’