Eleanor by Jason Gurley
Well, I’ve just finished reading Eleanor and can safely say that in terms of pulling on the heartstrings this book is in a masterclass of it’s own. Let me be clear, this is a story with heartbreak, mental illness, depression and grieving over a loved one and whilst that may sound like I’m trying to put you off from reading Eleanor that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Yes, this book undoubtedly deals with a lot of emotional issues but it’s so well written and so powerful. I want to call it beautiful but I’m not sure it’s really the right way to go, maybe evocative. It’s certainly a book that I would highly recommend and I know for a fact that I will continue to think about this for days to come.
The premise of the story. Well we start off with a young mother named Eleanor. Eleanor clearly has issues in terms of depression particularly revolving around her own feelings of lost identify, missed opportunity and an overwhelming feeling of being trapped (possibly she’s suffering from post natal depression?) Unfortunately Eleanor’s own mental state of mind result in her leaving her home early one morning and striding into the sea never to be seen again. Fast forward now to Agnes. Agnes is Eleanor’s daughter and now with twins of her own named Eleanor and Esmerelda. Again, tragedy strikes the family with a terrible car accident in which Esmerelda dies. Now jump forward again to a teenage Eleanor (the surviving twin). Eleanor’s life has been devastated by the loss of her twin sister. The guilt, blame, anger and reprisals have completely wrecked what was formerly a happy home. Divorced, Agnes now witnesses the world through the bottom of a bottle, her husband has retreated into his barely there existence and Eleanor is left trying to pick up the pieces. Then out of the blue Eleanor walks through a doorway in school to find herself going through a portal into a totally strange realm.
I just found this story fascinating, compelling and overwhelming. The writing is excellent and will punch you in the gut! Sorry, but it will. Lassie and Dobbie didn’t make me cry but this book came close! I started off thinking this would be a coming of age type of novel. Eleanor was about the right age and when she started having her strange experiences I thought these were going to be more akin to episodes that she was perhaps conjuring herself or even flights of fancy but in that respect I was completely wrong. What happens to Eleanor impacts on those closest to her in terms of her disappearing and then reappearing at a later stage, usually with various injuries which don’t really cast the other members of her family or friends in a good light. In fact, although Eleanor suffers trauma during these episodes, so do those surrounding her as she goes through these strange ordeals than nobody can understand or explain.
In terms of criticisms for the book. Well, I thought that the fantasy elements maybe got a little bit more fantastical than I liked, particularly given the very ‘real’ feel of everything else going on in the story. I was expecting a fantasy element but maybe something a bit more gentle somehow. Eleanor enters a sort of dream world – I’m going to be honest and say that dreams and dream worlds are not my favourite element of fantasy. That being said I think the author does a good job but I just felt it became a little bit too heavy for me personally at certain points. Not a major criticism and probably just my own personal whim.
On the whole though, I thought this was a really good story. The author can certainly pull the heartstrings and far from being a coming of age tale this is a story told by three generations of women. Mothers and daughters and their relationships and the impact this has on the family. It’s also a book that really looks at grief and the different way that can affect a family. On top of this, just to sweeten the deal, this is a book of hope. I seriously hope that I haven’t made this sound grim. There is tragedy and sadness but this is so much more than a grim read.
I received a copy of this courtesy of the publisher through netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.