Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the debut book by Gail Honeyman, a Scottish author.  It was written after Honeyman read a newspaper article about loneliness and it quoted a woman who said that she rarely spoke to anyone between leaving work on the Friday and returning on a Monday morning.

Book of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineI have to admit that I found this book difficult to begin with.  Not because it isn’t well written, it is.  But because the main character, Eleanor Oliphant, is difficult to connect to.  This is of course the point of the character, but it still meant that I struggled to sympathise with her or like her very much at the beginning.  Gradually you get to know her though, especially through her relationship with others, and you see that she is just a confused, lost person who is trying to fit in as best she can.  It was a little over half way through the book, when we reach the second section, that I finally began to connect and fully empathise with the character.  Watching her grapple with feelings and emotions and facing her past made her more human and relatable.  I thoroughly enjoyed the second half of this book, in fact I read it in one sitting, not getting the early night I had planned but I was just completely absorbed by it and had to read what happened next and then finish it.

The overarching theme of this book is loneliness.  It takes quite an extreme approach to it, but it was effective nonetheless.  It also reminded us that we don’t know what people have experienced in their past or what they are currently going through and we shouldn’t judge a person based on our own preconceptions – something that was addressed well with an encounter on a bus. 

It did feel as though the second half of the book was too quick, the speed at which Eleanor is meant to deal with her past issues when she finally faces them was extremely fast.  Having said that Honeyman was clear that Eleanor still had more work to do, and although the ending was a bit of a surprise (more so how easily Eleanor dealt with a revelation) you could tell that it wasn’t the end of her journey and she still had a long way to go.

I did enjoy this book and am pleased I read it, I can also see why it was a Costa Book Awards winner in 2017.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a novel by Heather Morris.  It follows Lale from his journey into the concentration camp, through his time there and how his story ends.  I was surprised when I saw on the front of the book that this is based on a true story.  Lale was a real person and the book was created after Morris sat with him and spoke of his time in the concentration camp numerous times.  This novel was initially written as a screenplay but, although I’m sure Morris was disappointed, I’m pleased that it didn’t get picked up and was converted to a book, I feel like we heard so much more about Lale’s life than we would have done in a movie or similar. 

It feels wrong to say that I enjoyed a book about someone’s experience in a The Tattooist of Auschwitz bookconcentration camp, but I did.  Obviously there were parts of the book that were harrowing and shocking, I was quite surprised at how naïve I was about what happened in the concentration camps, but overall I found the book uplifting.  It showed the inner strength that Lale, and many others, had and demonstrates what people are capable of, both negatively and positively.

I found the book to be really well written.  In my head the images of the camp and the people were clear, and the characters were written so well that I felt invested in those I read about and truly cared about how they were.

The edition of the book that I read had an epilogue and additional information that told you the outcome of Lale’s life (and those of some of the other main ‘characters’), it had photos from his life which were incredible to see, and there were also diagrams of how Auschwitz was laid out which I found it very similar to how I had imagined it from the book. There was also an afterword by someone who was very close to Lale and Morris wrote about a trip she took to both Auschwitz and his hometown.  All of these came together to bring Lale into the real world, rather than just a character in a book he was a real person, which gave the experiences detailed in the book that much more depth and feeling.

I highly recommend this book to read, to learn more about an important time in our history and get an understanding of what so many people went through (no matter how small that understanding is), it’s inspiring and a book I shall definitely be reading again in the future.