In my last post I told you that my book reviews aren’t as popular as some of the other posts that I write. However I just have to say that I don’t really care anymore. I love reading books and I love writing reviews of them, so today I am back with a review of this incredible debut from Gail Honeyman. The last book that I read and enjoyed this much was Gone Girl, which you’ll probably already know because I mention it in every book review I possibly can. I’m just so glad that I now have a new favourite to fixate over.
First of all, this book is an easy read. You find yourself wanting to read it on the train, after dinner, just before bed, on the bus. The writing style is just so incredibly engaging that it really is one of those novels that stops reading from becoming a chore. Even as a book lover you do sometimes find yourself struggling to get through the pages of a book, but with this one I can honestly say that I didn’t have to force myself at all. I just wanted to read it.
Eleanor is one of those characters that is both odd and endearing – a strange fusion of quirky little characteristics that make you think twice but also make you love her at the same time. Her thought processes, which are presented to us quite frequently through a stream of consciousness, really provide us with an insight not just into what type of character she is but also who she is. It becomes obvious quite quickly that she isn’t popular. She is the type of person that people avoid because they don’t really understand and that makes you feel sad for her.
But then you learn that Eleanor doesn’t even really care that much about what people think of her. At first you sort of admire that about her, until you realise that she only is this way because she has grown so used to being ostracised over the years. It’s because of this that she has established different coping mechanisms for it. Mechanisms that give the book its melancholy tone because for a lot of the time, when she’s in the privacy of her own home, you feel like you’re a fly on the wall watching her quietly suffer.
She has a drinking problem for one. It’s quite different to the way that, say, alcoholism is portrayed in The Girl on the Train. In that book it’s very physical. There are physical effects of Rachel’s drinking in the way that she speaks and the dangerous situations that she ends up in. In this book, everything happens when Eleanor is on her own. Loneliness is just this huge entity that pervades every chapter.
This is what makes it such a horrible but inspiring book. It’s horrible to read about someone who is so lonely that they have to create romantic fantasies about a person they have never even truly met. Buying new outfits and getting beauty treatments to impress this person “when” they finally meet. And to know that this is someone who has no family, let alone friends. Someone whose only social interaction occurs when they are at work and even then, the most interaction they get is listening to their work colleagues whispering about how strange their behaviours are.
It’s quite important really that Eleanor has this very humorous narration. Pointing out all of the logical things that we, as socially conditioned as we are, have been trained to ignore. Something as simple as exchanging pleasantries with the pizza delivery guy. Eleanor is the type of person who thinks to prepare fifty pence as a tip and put the kettle on in case he wants something to drink. She’s so socially alien, so practical and takes everything so literally. And it’s really funny. This book genuinely made me laugh out loud sometimes.
But it also sent chills down my spine too. The only points at which the humour is really silenced, is during Eleanor’s conversations with her mother. A very complicated presence in the story, the conversations she has with her mother will literally leave you numb and questioning whether everything you’ve just read has really happened. I say this all minimally to avoid giving anything away.
But if you read one book this year, or any year really, then make it this one. I can’t explain how inspiring it is. A story about how genuine friendship can be the healer to a thousand age old wounds.