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It’s only now that I’ve come to put this little update together that I’ve realised something which links all of these titles. Fun! I’m sure it won’t take you long to spot… Here are some short reviews of what I’ve been reading lately.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
There are many books I’m almost ashamed to admit I haven’t read yet. The Lord of the Flies, Mansfield Park, the Harry Potter series… But, as a Cornish bookworm, Rebecca should not be on that list. Fortunately, it’s not anymore. I was gifted this stunning 80th anniversary edition for my birthday last year when a (local!) friend discovered my secret.
For those not in the know, Rebecca is a gothic novel set in the fictional estate of Manderlay in Cornwall. Funnily enough, Rebecca isn’t the name of our heroine; it’s the name of her husband’s late wife, a woman whose presence still haunts the grounds, albeit not in a typical ghost-like manner. Rather, she’s felt in the curiosity of her husband’s family and friends, and the bitter resentment of his housekeeper.
Part Wuthering Heights, part Jane Eyre and part Northanger Abbey, this modern classic reeks of stormy seas, young love and dark secrets. There’s a reason why it has never been out of print.
The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion
When The Rosie Project was published in 2013, I instantly fell for the quirky charm of Don Tillman and his quest to find love using science. The follow-up, The Rosie Effect, felt forced and predictable, and I wasn’t sure about a third installment. Fortunately The Rosie Result is a return to form and tugs at the ol’ heart strings without laying it on too thick.
Don met Rosie in book #1, had a baby with her in book #2 and now they have an eleven year old son. A son who is smart, socially awkward and a bit of an outcast at school – something his father can relate to. So when Don is encouraged to take a leave of absence from work, he’s inspired to embark on a new project: The Hudson Adjustment Problem.
Despite the book’s title, this story is a lot less Rosie-centric. I’d like to have read more about her struggle with juggling her career and family life, but these books are primarily about Don and his own battles. His whole life changes after a misunderstanding at work sees him move his family from America to Australia. With a new business to launch, an ill parent, a bullied child and an unhappy wife, there’s a lot to deal with – and deal with he does, in his own Don-like way. And it’s just so flipping endearing. Check out the whole series.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is probably the most talked about book of last year. It won the Costa Debut Novel Award in 2017, Debut Book of the Year and Overall Winner of the British Book Awards in 2018, was a New York Times bestseller, and the film rights have been optioned by Reese Witherspoon’s production company. Yet, judging by the book blogs I read, it appears to be a bit of a Marmite book, with some readers calling it a must-read and others claiming they don’t understand the hype. I had to see what all the fuss was about.
I bought this stunning signed hardback edition at Christmas and it had been sat on my bookcase ever since, waiting for the right mood. I’m not the kind of person to just read books in the order I purchased them; I carefully select a new book each Monday morning for the commute. Not so long ago, I was finally ready.
It’s one of those books whose essence is hard to capture. I could say that it’s about a 29-year-old who lives alone and has been stuck in the same boring office job since graduation. I could say it’s about a lonely women who falls for a musician and tries to curate her very own ‘meet-cute’. Or I could say it’s about a scarred care leaver who isn’t allowed to move on thanks to weekly phone calls from her manipulative mother. But Eleanor Oliphant is so much more than the sum of her parts. While it took me a while to warm to her, I was soon rooting for her and, by the end, I adored her.
In their own ways, The Rosie Project and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine have a lot to teach us about being kind to others. They remind me of a quote I stumbled across a few years ago which I found particularly noteworthy: Be kind; you never know what someone is going through.
Have you read any of these?