Book Review ~ Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

27273869Eleanor Oliphant goes to work every day, she wears the same clothes, eats the same lunch, and always buys two bottles of vodka to drink throughout the weekend. As the title tells us, she’s completely fine. People might think she’s a little odd, but she’s lasted this long without any meaningful relationships. She’s fine.

One day she simply helps a man who has collapsed in the street, and everything changes. Gradually, she starts to develop relationships, and in doing so, she has to relearn how to navigate the world. And as her life moves on, she has to confront some of the horrors of her past.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a truly wonderful novel, with a character at its centre who feels instantly real. There’s no denying that she’s odd, and the lines are slightly blurred as to whether she has a condition that causes her issues with social interaction, or whether years of enforced isolation have got her to this point.

At the very start of the story we learn that Eleanor has fallen in love; not with anyone she knows, but with a ‘rockstar’ she has seen on stage at a concert, a rare social outing for her. As the reader, we understand exactly the sort of man that Johnnie Lomond is. He’s a wannabe rockstar, a diva with no reason to be, and absolutely no good for Eleanor, the woman that the reader has already taken to heart, wanting nothing but the best for her.

As the story progresses, Eleanor gradually begins to develop friendships with unlikely people: the IT guy from the graphic design company she works for, the old gent she helps when he suffers a heart attack in the street, even the daughter of this man who couldn’t be more different to Eleanor, with her shiny hair and fashionable clothes.

I was expecting to feel overwhelming sadness throughout this book; loneliness is an affliction that is heartbreaking, and one that is experienced by far too many people. But there’s such a beautiful warmth in this novel, as we watch Eleanor break free of the walls that she has built around herself and engage with people for the first time in decades. It’s also laugh out loud funny, as we watch Eleanor try and navigate this new world.

Eleanor’s background is revealed slowly, and we are left guessing as to the true cause of her isolation until almost the very end of the story. But it’s a life-affirming tale of friendship, overcoming adversity, and joy. I will be recommending it to everyone I know!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
First published: May 2017
ISBN: 780008172114
Provided by publisher

* This book was provided to me by the publishers for the purposes of review, via Netgalley

Book Review ~ Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

cover83561-mediumMargot Lewis, teacher and agony aunt for the local paper, receives a letter purporting to be from a girl, kidnapped twenty years earlier, and never found.  The case of Bethan Lewis has never been solved, and it becomes clear that there is a connection to the recent disappearance of another local girl, a student at Margot’s school. As the story progresses, Margot is drawn evermore into the case; with secrets of her own, discovering the truth turns her world upside down.

Dear Amy is the latest addition to the female-driven, psychological thriller genre, becoming popularly known as ‘Grip Lit’. There’s no denying the popularity of recent bestsellers such as Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and Disclaimer, and so there appears to be no sign of authors running out of ideas for stories that have damaged women at the centre of a criminal investigation.

This is no bad thing, however, as long as the story is gripping, as I suppose a ‘grip lit’ book should be. And Dear Amy is as gripping as they come. Margot, our narrator, is terribly damaged. We gradually come to know her story; at the beginning, we learn that she has recently separated from her cheating husband, but as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that before she came to live the respectable middle-class life of Cambridge-educated teacher, she had some pretty major problems. The arrival of this letter into her life threatens to bring those problems right back to her door, and with the first-person narrative, we are witness to her gradual breakdown as she comes to terms with her past.

Of course, with a story like this, to say anything about the plot is to spoil the moment of realisation the reader is treated to, and Callaghan does such a wonderful job of holding enough back to ensure that (for myself at least), I had no idea what was coming.

The setting and characters are wonderfully realised; Cambridge almost becomes a character in and of itself, a place where Margot feels completely at home following her turbulent adolescence. Margot herself is vulnerable but not weak as a result of it, allowing the reader to see this exposed side of her, while also keeping her strong and focused on saving these two young women who need her help.

Dear Amy is a worthy addition to this burgeoning genre of psychological thriller, and it’s an exciting debut from Helen Callaghan.

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan
First published: June 16th 2016
ISBN: 9780718183752
Michael Joseph
Review copy provided by publisher via Netgalley

Book Review ~ When We Collided by Emery Lord

9781408870624Jonah is seventeen, and has recently lost his dad. He’s just about the middle child in a large family, and his mum has taken their recent loss hard, to the point where she has retreated to her bedroom, and rarely comes out. Jonah is left to take care of his younger siblings, and he is existing this way until one day, Vivi arrives in his beachside town for the summer. Vivi is a force to be reckoned with; she says what she’s thinking, she wears what she wants, and everything she does is because she wants life to be an experience.

It’s not always easy to like Vivi. She’s overbearing, and difficult, and not always totally sympathetic. But as her story unfolds, she displays more and more vulnerability, and although she sets out on a one-person mission to save Jonah, and make his life a little more bearable, it’s obvious that she needs saving as much as he does, if not more.

A YA beach-set novel is one of my favourite types, but I never expect more than an entertaining story and a romance between the lead characters. I thought When We Collided was going to be that type of book, but it didn’t take very long for me to realise that it was a different story altogether. It’s YA fiction at its best, because it takes the universal story of first love and explores it through the lens of both grief and serious mental illness.

Without giving anything away, the ending had me crying as I finished the book on the train. I am not sure that I bought into the romance as much as I could have, but I think that the ending proves that it’s a story that is about more than just a boy and a girl.

When We Collided by Emery Lord
First published: April 2016
ISBN: 9781619638457
Review copy provided by publisher via Netgalley

Book Review ~ The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith


I have never been particularly shy about loving Young Adult books. Of course, I prefer the very good ones, but even the mediocre ones tend to be short enough that it doesn’t really matter that they aren’t very good.

I downloaded The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight from Netgalley. It’s not a new book, but they were offering a limited number of downloads, so I thought I’d give it a go. The first thing that struck me was what a striking resemblance it bore to a particular event in my life.

Seventeen-year-old Hadley is flying to England to attend her dad’s wedding. Missing the flight, she waits at the airport and meets Oliver, a handsome British guy who just happens to be on the same flight as her.


Sitting in an airport, worrying about missing a wedding struck a particular chord with me, because this is the situation I found myself in a few years ago. OK, so my travel woes were caused by a snowstorm, rather than a missed flight, and I waited a lot longer than Hadley for my flight, but I felt her pain! We were even both travelling (or trying to travel) from Connecticut to London, and both had the same fears over having terrible hair for the wedding (her fears weren’t realised, while mine very much were).

Sadly I didn’t fall in love with a handsome stranger either. Oliver is the perfect hero for a Young Adult novel; he’s tall, handsome, mysterious, and slightly tortured. Hadley has her own problems, but, of course, she goes on both a literal and metaphorical journey, and manages to reconcile herself yo her father’s new life in London.

This is a very short novel; and I really felt as though I wanted a little bit more time devoted to all the characters. I didn’t feel as though I really got to know anyone other than Hadley, and I didn’t believe in the relationship between her and Oliver, because there wasn’t enough time devoted to it.

The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love was fine as a quick read, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed half as much if I hadn’t identified with the travel crisis like I did.