I had been meaning to get to this book for months after a recommendation by JoAnne of Lakeside Musing. It was a page turner for me, not a thriller or mystery as I usually read, it’s a portrait of a young woman who had evidently been through something horrific in her past.
She has no social skills or experience with everyday situations such as ordering a pizza or going to a concert. Little clues about her looks and an unconventional and possibly violent past are hinted at early on. Her facial scars, mentions of looking at magazines in hospital waiting rooms and institutions….what happened to this woman?!
Well, it’s all revealed through bits in pieces and final crashing amount of information that makes you want to grab Eleanor and hug her. Make her life whole, let her see there is good in the world.
Eleanor goes to work 5 days a week and the routine seems to be enough, until the weekend where she eats frozen pizza and drinks copious amounts of vodka. One day after work she is annoyed that a coworker named Raymond is walking with her. She doesn’t socialize, she is uncomfortable. They see an older man collapsed in the street and go to assist. Very slowly her life changes from that point onward. This is a lady who never socializes, who lives from office to home to her corner market in London. Now she is visiting someone, she even goes with Raymond to see his mother.
“Everything felt safe, everything felt normal, How different Raymond’s life had been from mine – a proper family, a mother and a father and a sister, nestled among other proper families.”
There was a bit of food mentioned in this one as well as the British soap opera The Archers.
Eating her meal deal while listening to The Archers. (I tried listening to that before and for some reason stopped. I think I needed more background.)
Pesto with pasta, scallops, cod, poached duck egg and hazelnut oil. Bouillabaisse with homemade rouille. Honey glazed poussin with celeriac fondants. Fresh truffles in season, shaved over crepes and buttered linguine. Sourdough toast with Manchego cheese and quince paste.
“Mummy old me the way to a man’s heart is a homemade sausage roll.”
Pizza and wine. A woman after my own heart. We love a bottle of Beaujolais and pizza for movie night, In this instance Eleanor wasn’t able to procure her frozen pizza and had one delivered. Something she had never done before.
Cheese and pickle sandwiches, tomato soup in a mug
“Raymond pushed open the back door without knocking, shouting hello as he walked into the little kitchen. It smelled deliciously of soup, salty and warm, probably emanating from the large pot on the hob.” The soup was made with pork knuckle and full of fresh vegetables from the garden. There was bread and butter and cheese.
I like this quote: This is what I felt: the warm weight of his hands on me; the gentleness in his smile; the gentle heat of something opening, the way some flowers spread out in the morning at the sight of the sun. I knew what was happening. It was the unscarred piece of my heart. It was just big enough to let in a bit of affection.
I’m glad I made time this year for Eleanor Oliphant. It was a good story.
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