Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

☆☆☆☆☆

I’m so happy I read (or listened to the brilliant audio book, read by Cathleen McCarron) this book first of 2018. I absolutely loved it, from the first sentence to the last.

”Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” is Gail Honeyman’s debut. The book is about 30-year old Eleanor (born in 1987, just like me! yay!) who works the same job as always, eats the same Margherita pizza on Friday’s and doesn’t really interact with anyone else other than her mother, who calls her every Wednesday. She’s an outsider on her job, but that’s how she wants it. She is, after all, perfectly fine.

Then she meets Johnnie Lomond and falls instantly in love. She is convinced he is the man of her dreams and intends to start at relationship with him. The only problem is that he isn’t aware that Eleanor exists. In a series of coincidences she befriends Raymond, who according to Eleanor is both quite disgusting and tactless, but after a while he starts to play a bigger part in her life.

Behind what might sound like a feelgood chicklit there is a darkness that seeps through the lines. Chapter by chapter we get to know more about Eleanor and her background, about her mother, about her scars – both visible and invisible ones. We understand more about why she is the way she is. Honeyman gives the reader exactly enough to start wondering, but not too much or too little. The rest of the story is still compelling enough to want to read further. The book intertwines humor and cynicism perfectly and even if I didn’t always agree with Eleanor, her depictions of the people around her and society are often right on point. The scene where she observes people at a dance floor is hilarious and spot on.

Eleanor is unlike any other character I’ve met and I’d like to call her something of a modern heroine. Some readers have contemplated if she’s somewhere on the Autism spectrum – something that I can’t and won’t speculate around. For me Eleanor might very well be the way she is because of circumstances beyond her control, regardless of if it’s something inside of her of it’s due to her past. I fell for her instantly and continued to fall for her throughout the book. I felt with her and even saw myself in her in some aspects, even if I often shook my head at her musings. I wanted to both shout at her, shake her and give her a hug.

The book is mainly about loneliness and the meaning of company. Honeyman describes mental illness in a considerate way and has created some unforgettable characters. I’m seldom sad that a book is over just because it’s over, but I could gladly have stayed with Eleanor for a lot longer.

First five stars of the year!

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The Princess Saves Herself in This One

If you’ve spent time on Tumblr you’ve probably come across one or dozen poetical quotes, often accompanied by a sepia toned picture of a lonely girl by a window, wilted flowers, two naked hands on a crumpled sheet. Quotes that burn at the exact right moment, short poems consisted of one or two sentences, posted online mere moments after forming the thought, poetry in it’s barest form, if you will. This, essentially, is Tumblr poetry.

Most of these poems stay on and will have to do with a couple of thousand re-blogs (if you’re lucky).  Others, very lucky ones, find their way into the publishing world and become a collection of poetry. More and more poems today remind me of these short Tumblr-quotes. There’s a lot of empowering, female friendship and feminism, but also heartache, depression and death. I’ve read The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace, and it’s all of the above.

she begins
tearing
the pages
from the spines
of her favorite
books
& frantically
stuffs wads of words
into her mouth,
praying it’s true
that you become
what you eat
while she sucks
the flavor of ink from
her blackened fingertips.

The storyline is as follows: the young, depressed girl with an eating disorder and abusive mother who grows up, meets troublesome men who hurt her and then, finally, finds her own strength, partly through literature. Well, sort of. Told in four parts – the princess, the damsel, the queen och you, Lovelace explores themes such as death, girlhood and love. It’s self pity and self empowering alternately.

once upon
a time,
the princess
rose from the ashes
her dragon lovers
made of her
&
crowned
herself
the
motherfucking
queen of
herself.
– how’s that for happily ever after?

The poems aren’t long by any means. They mostly consist of nice enough quotes broken into one word sentences that look cute on paper – or a blog post on Tumblr -, but really are just that: an okay sentence. Some of these poems are better than others (like the first one I posted), but most of them are clichéfilled eye-roll moments that are supposed to move me but just fall pathetically and plainly.

I’m not exactly a poetry person, but I still don’t think it’s enough to press enter after every word and call that a poem. It could work if the poem itself wasn’t so painfully obvious most of the time. Unfortunately the feminist themes don’t make up for the genericness of the poems either. Just because you include trans peoples rights and rape culture it doesn’t make the product good. Moreover it feels like an attempt to make a weak product better by inclusion. Also, it feels like the book contradicts itself: it talks about the princess needing nobody else to live a happy life, but the whole last part of the book is dedicated to romantic, monogamous love.

But, I do believe this collection of poems can speak to a younger generation dealing with the same sort of issues as the writer is touching on, and find solace in her words. If anyone knows of a poetry collection with similar themes, but better writing, tell me!

i hope you
treat her better
than you
ever
treated me. 
– you can have my forgiveness, but you
can’t
have me

maybe
i find it
so hard to
believe in
heaven
because
i don’t know
if there
will be
poetry
there
– legitimate concerns of a mortal.

Hopefully not of this sort. Sorry.

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

☆☆☆☆

“The Hate U Give” is hopefully one of many books to come about Black Lives Matter. The characters and places are fictional, but strongly inspired by actual events. The book is highly important and relevant in today’s climate, and everybody should read it, young and old.

Throughout the book we follow Starr through her grief after witnessing her friend’s murder. We see the reaction’s in people around her and how media portray’s the shooter as the victim and the victim as a “thug”. In Garden Heights, where Starr lives, protests are lead, and in Williamson, her predominantly white prep school, her relationships are put to the test. Can she talk to her friends about being the witness the news reports are talking about? How should she relate to her white boyfriend? What should she do when her friend says a racist comment?

”It’s fried chicken day!” she says. ”You and Maya were just joking about it. What are you trying to say?”
I keep pacing.
Her eyes widen. ”Oh my God. You think I was being racist?”
I look at her. ”You made a fried chicken comment to the only black girl in the room. What do you think?”
”Ho-ly shit, Starr! Seriously? After everything we’ve been through, you think I’m a racist? Really?”

This is a perfect example on how everyday racism works. Hailey is a feminist, but that doesn’t exclude her from being racist. Racism isn’t just about hating other so called races, but about words and actions. So many anti-racists don’t understand this. In the USA, to use the n-word as a white person is mostly considered a big no no (as it should!), but here in Finland people still use it regularly and many don’t see the problem and the history related to the term. And comments about fried chicken, meant as a joke or not, are still racist, no matter how anti-racist you portray yourself as otherwise.

Racism is an issue on a structural level and has to do with the hundreds of years of oppression by white people. This is also the reason reverse racism doesn’t exist. I saw a review on this book by someone who called it racism when white people were commented on in the book. It’s not. It just isn’t, and it never will be. Black people can be mean towards white people, sure (as all people can) but it will never be racism, as white people have never been structurally oppressed.

Thomas’s writing style is easy to follow, and she portrays the life of a sixteen year old girl perfectly. The dialogue is great, and the characters realistic. She writes with a warmth and a humor that doesn’t take away the pain and the anger of the theme in the story. Starr is a relatable character for all readers, despite background, she is funny and fierce but at the same time heart-broken after witnessing two of her friends die in her life. She wants change, but doesn’t know what to do. For white readers this book can provide some insight to what it’s like to live in a racist society, and for black readers the story provides representation, a voice, a bond; something to connect to.

One of the most important books of the year – maybe the most important. I look forward to seeing more diverse books with all kinds of representation. They’re needed.

Picture from Rife Magazine. 

Review: History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Adam Silvera’s latest Young Adult-novel is a gripping and cute story about Griffin, whose ex-boyfriend and best friend Theo has died in an accident. While grieving, Griffin befriends Theo’s current boyfriend Jackson, more or less willingly. Together, they try to cope with the fact that Theo is never coming back to them, while at the same time struggling with their own history regarding Theo, and Griffins worsening OCD.

Read from March 20 – 29

☆☆☆

People are complicated puzzles, always trying to piece together a complete picture, but sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes we’re left unfinished. Sometimes that’s for the best. Some pieces can’t be forced into a puzzle, or at least they shouldn’t be, because they won’t make sense.

Adam Silvera’s latest Young Adult-novel is a gripping and cute story about Griffin, whose ex-boyfriend and best friend Theo has died in an accident. While grieving, Griffin befriends Theo’s current boyfriend Jackson, more or less willingly. Together, they try to cope with the fact that Theo is never coming back to them, while at the same time struggling with their own history regarding Theo, and Griffin’s worsening OCD.

I found the book easy enough to get into. The beginning instantly tells us what’s going on without giving too much away.  I adored the characters and the popular culture references were funny and so true (Voldemort would totally win in a fight against Darth Vader).

The writing is beautiful, without getting too metaphorical or poetic, but while still being well written and flowing. Every other chapter is called Today, and narrates Griffin’s life after Theo’s death. Every other chapter is then called History, which provide us with fragments from his life with Theo, from when they just started dating to when they broke up before Theo moved to California.

While I really adored Theo as a character and felt that Griffin was a likeable enough narrator, I didn’t really connect with Jackson or Wade, Griffin’s other friend, all that much. The story itself started to slow down in the middle, and towards the end it felt like something had gone missing. The romance in the story, which is really cute and believable, is also somewhat messy and almost unnecessary at certain points – without spoiling too much.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. We both know that’s bullshit; it comes from people who have nothing comforting or original to say.

Regarding Griffin’s OCD, I’m not sure about how it’s depicted here since I don’t suffer from it myself – more than that I have occasional intrusive thoughts. Griffin’s OCD manifests in behaviour such as always wanting to be on the left of someone, or wanting numbered sequences to come in even numbers. I can absolutely appreciate the inclusion of OCD as a trait that the main character just happens to have, and not something that has to be addressed that much, or even “cured”. But at times, I felt it was a bit problematic when people referred to his OCD as “quirks”, or when Jackson pushed him to do things that gave him anxiety. Even if it would help, you’re not a health care professional and I think it’s important that the person living with an illness gets to decide when and where they want to expose themselves to a potentially anxious experience.

What Silvera does very well, is write about grief. I couldn’t even imagine what it would actually feel like if someone close to me died suddenly and unpredictably. Even writing about it now gives me anxiety. Silvera writes grief in a heart wrenching way, and as a reader, I was truly moved. 

Welcome, dear reader!

I’m finally doing what I’ve been planning to do for ages now, and that is start my own book blog for my English reads! I read mostly in English, despite my first language being Swedish – and I’m from Finland so I also know Finnish. But it’s just been this way for a long time, and now I want to share my interest with you. I read mostly Young Adult and Adult Contemporary, but also some Fantasy, Crime Thrillers and the occasional Classic. Join me, won’t you?