I can now fully understand why so many people have urged me to read this novel. Gail Honeyman has brought to life an eccentric lovable character, who brings to life the themes of loneliness and isolation and forces us to confront them.
Written in the 1st person we are introduced to Eleanor as she goes about her dull daily life. Her eccentricity is immediately apparent. She drinks vodka like water, yet her superiority towards the rest of humanity is at complete odds with the reality of her own life.
Following a chance meeting with a guy from work called Raymond (after they help a gentleman called Sammy, who has collapsed on the pavement) Eleanor finds herself making small changes to her life. Raymond is gentle and kind, and despite herself, she finds herself accepting invitations to go places.
The heart of this novel is about how humans cope with trauma and loneliness. Eleanor is seen as different because she doesn’t conform to the rules of beauty, fashion or some social norms. The rest of society doesn’t understand her, and bar the kindness of Raymond, Sammy and a few others, Eleanor would continue to live a tragic and lonely existence.
There are many laugh out loud moments. My particular favourite was when she had her first make over (make-up etc) and described herself thus: “‘I look like a small Madagascan primate, or perhaps a North American raccoon,’ I said. ‘It’s charming!’”
As the novel unfolds, we receive clues as to why Eleanor is as she is, and the life she has had. The spectre of ‘Mummy’ lurks in the shadows and Eleanor must deal with a weekly phone call with her mother which is littered with abusive put-downs.
Eleanor is a plucky, incredibly resilient heroine – now one of my favourites in literature. Her need for human connection is visceral, and my heart ached for her. I cheered her on as she began to emerge from the cocoon of her traumatic life.
This book is a joy to read. It is beautifully written and heart-warming. I loved it.