February’s book: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

This month’s theme was “new beginnings”. This month, therefore, we reading:

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

eleanor

 

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. All this means that Eleanor has become a creature of habit (to say the least) and a bit of a loner.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of a quirky yet lonely woman whose social
misunderstandings and deeply ingrained routines could be changed forever—if she can bear to confront the secrets she has avoided all her life. But if she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.

Other choices this month were:

  • A Good American by Alex George
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
  • Britt Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

 

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January’s meeting

Happy new year bookclubbers! The first meeting of 2018 and one that I, for one, was really looking forward to. Not only had we chosen a book that I adore (spoiler) but it was a chance to come off the diet, drink wine, eat amazing pizza, and share some more time with our lovely book club members.

We welcomed two new members – Nina and Adeline. As with most of our new members, they took to book club like, er… cheese to pizza, words to a page, wine to a huge glass (?) and were soon part of the furniture.

This month, my over-reliance on technology saved the day. I left the big book at home and so had to depend on my phone and Bad Kelly’s notebook. Not the most organised start to the year.

Kelly and I shared note taking this month so if I can’t read her writing (or mine, for that matter) then forgive me if I just gloss over it.

Not surprisingly, everyone finished the book this month (it was a quick read). What was surprising, was the disparity in scores that ranged from 10 to 2. The average score came out at 7.3 – just behind Oryx and Crake and beating Lady Chatterley’s Lover suggesting that, although there were a couple of members who REALLY HATED it, there were a few more who rather liked it.

For those of us who adored the book (me included), we waxed lyrical about how it made us think, how the ending was a shock, how well it was set up etc. I think it might be one of those books that requires a second reading. Once you get over the shock of the reveal, you can go back and really see how Lockhart crafted the set up (or, if you’re like me, just read it in the bath, sobbing all the while)

The slightly more luke warm readers amongst us found that the end was the saving grace – up until that point, the writing was lacklustre and the characters not particularly likeable. While it took some people weeks to read the opening chapters, it only took an hour to steam through the end.

We had a couple of people who just hated the book. They found it cliche and uninteresting. They didn’t care about the characters or what they did. So there.

We started the discussion with a question as to whether Cady was a reliable narrator or not. Did we believe her? A few people felt Cady just sounded sorry for herself throughout the novel and that made the story a little more difficult to read. We questioned the premise of the book – that it was all an accident – and talked about whether Cady was, in fact, responsible for the whole thing. Did her mother put her up to it? Some people felt that Cady was a trustworthy source of information. They felt that if she had been responsible for the accident, then the memories she had of the summer would have been different.

We questioned the planning behind the accident. The mothers of the group reminded us that teenagers rarely think things through and so it was entirely feasible that this “plan” could have been hatched.

We moved onto discussions about other key characters. We talked quite a bit about Gat and whether it was love with him. Some of the group wondered why we cared so much (to which the rest didn’t have an answer!). It was widely thought that if Gat was white, he would have been accepted into the family without question.

We explored how everything went off the rails when Tipper died and how see seemed to hold the family together… and much like her fabric burned, the common thread between the family died when she did.

We had a little conversation about Cady’s father and questioned why he was included in the book. We talked about family conflict, Shakespeare, Heathcliffe, and sisters pretending to like each other.

Finally, many bottles of wine later (judging by Kelly and my handwriting), we talked about foreshadowing and what the group noticed.

**SPOILER ALERT: if you’ve not read the book, stop reading this post now**

  • Cady talks about Harris’ face in the flames of a bonfire
  • No one answered emails all summer
  • The Liars were never near the adults all summer
  • They weren’t interuppted all summer – no one seemed to mind them staying in Cuddledown
  • When Miriam started getting sick
  • Johnny’s mother asking “Do you see him too?”
  • Gat and Johnny don’t allow Cady to jump off the cliff
  • They never answer her questions.

Accident or intentional? We’ll never know.

Until next time bookclubbers.

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