Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

ELEANOR OLIPHANT

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

by Gail honeyman

 

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine…but not really. her life consists of work – Monday to Friday, with very little in the way of human interaction. Then weekends spent at home, alone, not speaking to a soul from leaving work on the Friday to getting on the bus on Monday morning.

On Friday after leaving work she buys a pizza from Tesco and two bottles of vodka that she drinks throughout the weekend, never getting drunk but in a suitable haze to see her through.

Eleanor’s social skills are extremely limited; she has no filter for her thoughts and her only point of reference is ‘mummy’ who is cruel and vindictive and no longer in her life except for a weekly phone call.

Then three men come into Eleanor’s life…

The first she decides is the man for her: the one she will walk off into the sunset with. So she sets about updating her appearance for the meeting that will change her life, with hilarious consequences.

The second man is Raymond, the IT man at work. They meet when Eleanor’s computer breaks down. Raymond is one of the few people who is not put off by Eleanor’s blunt manner.

The third man is Sammy. When Sammy is taken ill, Eleanor and Raymond help him and the three become friends, resulting in Eleanor’s life opening up and a huge learning curve.

Eleanor is one of the most fabulous creations. Her thoughts on other people and the world around her are totally hilarious.

“I purchased it in a charity shop some years ago, and it has a photograph of a moon-faced man. He is wearing a brown leather blouson. Along the top, in strange yellow font, it says ‘Top Gear’. I don’t profess to understand this mug. It holds the perfect amount of vodka, however, thereby obviating the need for frequent refills.”

But at the same time she is vulnerable and holds dark secrets from the past. We follow her as she tries to come to terms with who she is and how she interacts with the world, with the help of the lovely Raymond. Their relationship is a joy to behold. His small kindnesses making all the difference to a woman who has never been shown any and known only loneliness.

This is such a powerful book, having strong themes of loneliness and heartbreaking sadness but with a huge warmth and tenderness. You’ll laugh out loud on one page and cry buckets on the next. I didn’t want this book to end and was bereft when I had to say goodbye.

Do not miss it. The best book of the year so far.

 

Many thanks to Harper Collins for sending me a copy.

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In Her Wake

in her wake#

 

In Her Wake

by Amanda Jennings

 

A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own.

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life.

Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.

After the death of her mother, Bella returns to her childhood home to comfort her father, but the two have never really had a closeness to their relationship, and her father’s need to tell her something important and his inability to do so makes the distance feel like a chasm.

After another tragedy, Bella finds out things about her life and family that questions everything she has ever known to be true. She finds herself on a journey that takes her to the Cornish coast where she finds people who know more about her than she knows herself.

The descriptions of the the Cornish setting and the weather gives a claustrophobic feel to the book and a deep sense of foreboding infuses the narrative. The Old vicarage, Bella’s childhood home, exudes a malevolence that makes you feel sure that you would never walk through the door.

The depth to the characters in this book is phenomenal. Bella, who we follow as she stumbles through areas of her life that she never knew existed, trying to make sense of the decisions made on her behalf with barely a thought of the devastating ramifications. How she copes, how she struggles, how she feels; Bella is brought to life by Amanda Jennings in a way that touches the deepest part of you.

But the author doesn’t just concentrate on Bella, the other characters are just as well drawn; David, arrogant and controlling; the wonderful Dawn, a survivor, against all odds, trying her best to get through each day; Alice, living with an all-encompassing grief, the sort that rips your heart out and takes away your entire life; Henry and Elaine, the nuts and bolts of this piece; even the lovely Phil who gives Bella, and us, moments of light relief.

Amanda Jennings doesn’t flinch from the stark realities of people’s lives. She exposes the flaws and mistakes but in such an empathetic way that leaves us feeling less judgmental than perhaps would be the case in a lesser author’s hands.

This is a stunning story of heartbreak, identity, love and loss. It has the perfect title, the perfect cover and is the most beautifully written, breathtakingly powerful book.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for sending me a copy.

Amanda Jennings

Amanda is mother to three daughters and lives in chaotic contentment just outside Henley-on-Thames with a houseful of pets and a husband. She is the author of three books, Sworn Secret, The Judas Scar and In Her Wake. She is currently working on her fourth, another psychological thriller set in West Cornwall.

To purchase a copy of In Her Wake click here

 

 

Untouchable Things

untouchable things

 

 

Untouchable Things

by Tara Guha

 

For the third time this week he is watching her scream.

Watching, not listening. 

Rebecca Laurence is centre stage and shining in her role as Ophelia. She pivots, rotating like a ballerina impaled in a musical box, red hair cascading down her back.
Amidst the thundering applause, one man is watching. Rebecca meets the charismatic Seth Gardner, and as attraction grows between them, he invites her to join his Friday Folly, a group of artistic friends. But as Rebecca is drawn into the web of tangled relationships all is not as it appears. The scene is set for the night that will rip the group apart.
Consumed by loss and surrounded by secrets, Rebecca must escape the grip of the Folly to have any chance of saving herself. Meanwhile, one man continues to watch.

 

Seth Gardner, charismatic, rich and beguiling, holds sway over a group of hand-chosen friends. Hand-chosen for their susceptibilities, their weak-spots and their desires, that ultimately hand him control of their lives. But Seth is not some one-dimensional control freak; far from it. He is a deeply complex character who is caring and generous to his friends, often saving them from themselves. But he has a background that leaves him as vulnerable and unstable as a lost child. All of this means that you can see why they fall over themselves to be the most important person in his life.

The book opens with Seth becoming entranced by Rebecca, an actress playing the role of Ophelia in Hamlet. He persuades her to join his Friday Folly group, where arts and literature are given free rein, along with copious amounts of alcohol.

The other members of the group are;                                                       Catherine, a shy pianist with no confidence who prefers to be regarded as the hired help than be thrust into the limelight. Michael; principled school teacher from the North, uncomfortable with the opulence of Seth’s lifestyle and decadence. Jose; a rent boy with a dream.  Anna; likes dressing up and drinking. Charles; a friend of Seth’s from Cambridge. Jake; cockney wide-boy who can cook. All very different people, but all hold pivotal roles in the story.

The structure of the book is highly original, instead of chapters we have acts and scenes. Some parts of the book are set out as dialogue in a play with the characters even addressing the audience. Given the references to Hamlet and Oedipus it is very apt.

From the start we are aware that something awful has happened because the scenes are interspersed by police interviews with members of the group. These scenes give us the background to the characters and brilliant insights into their rivalries.

As the book unfolds, and a night of shocking revelation, the dynamics of the group crack and split, leaving all the characters reeling in one way or another.

This is a brilliant portrayal of friendships; the glue that holds them and the secrets that rip them apart. The characters are completely believable and fascinating. The author does brilliantly well to create, and hold, the air of tension and brooding foreboding throughout the book.

The writing in the book is astonishing;  prose that has you melting as you read. I was spellbound from the first page and as the pages left got fewer and fewer my reading got slower as I didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters or the sumptuous prose.

This is one fantastic debut novel. An intelligent, gripping, thought-provoking psychological thriller that deserves to be a major success. I cannot  recommend it highly enough.

*****

Many thanks to Legend Press for sending me a copy.

Copies of Untouchable Things can be purchased via the link here

 

                                     

 

 

 

The Lie

the lie

The Lie
by C. L. Taylor

I know your name’s not really Jane Hughes…

Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist.

Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women.

Jane has tried to put her past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves.

Jane Hughes has a nice life working in an animal sanctuary and enjoying a fledgling relationship with a local teacher. Everything appears to be going well. But all is not as it seems; Jane is really Emma and her life was turned upside down five years ago after a trip to Nepal with three friends turned into an ugly experience. Now the past is catching up with the present and Jane is receiving messages from beyond the grave.

The story is told in two timelines, the present day and five years previously. It’s brilliantly done. The suspense is built up with a drip feed of information in both timelines and brought together to collide in a stunning finale.

The brilliance of this story is that it is just so plausible. Attractive charismatic male able to prise open the cracks already appearing in the relationships of four girlfriends. Taylor delves into female relationships; the petty jealousies, competitiveness, mistrust, and we watch in horror as they crash and burn.

The characters are brilliant, each demanding different emotions as they move and change through the story.

This is such a dark suspenseful tale with some gruesome violence. It is utterly gripping with echoes of The Beach by Alex Garland and anyone who has travelled the backpack route may find themselves thinking; ‘there but for the grace of God…’

If you like psychological thrillers then I cannot recommend this one highly enough.
****1/2

Many thanks to the publishers Avon for sending me a copy via Netgalley.

The Liar’s Chair

the Liar's Chair

The Liar’s Chair
by Rebecca Whitney

The truth could destroy her . . . A stunning psychological thriller debut set in Brighton
Rachel Teller and her husband David appear happy, prosperous and fulfilled. The big house, the successful business . . . They have everything.
However, control, not love, fuels their relationship and David has no idea his wife indulges in drunken indiscretions. When Rachel kills a man in a hit and run, the meticulously maintained veneer over their life begins to crack.
Destroying all evidence of the accident, David insists they continue as normal. Rachel though is racked with guilt and as her behaviour becomes increasingly self-destructive she not only inflames David’s darker side, but also uncovers her own long-suppressed memories of shame. Can Rachel confront her past and atone for her terrible crime? Not if her husband has anything to do with it . . .
A startling, dark and audacious novel set in and around the Brighton streets, The Liar’s Chair will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final page has been turned. A stunning psychological portrait of a woman in a toxic marriage, Rebecca Whitney’s debut will show that sometimes the darkest shadow holds the truth you have been hiding from . . .

I can’t remember reading a novel where there are so many unlikeable characters. I think the only one with any redeeming features is Will; and he is a drug-dealer! That’s how bad it is.

Rachel, the protagonist, is awful, even knowing that she is married to the biggest twonk ever doesn’t make you warm to her. She is needy, irresponsible and blames everybody except herself for all her ills.

Coming home from spending the night at her lover’s, she knocks down and kills a man. Knowing she is probably over the limit, she panics, drags the body into the woods and doesn’t report the accident. The only person she tells is her husband David, who is a controlling, manipulative man. This is just what he needs to control her even more. He sorts everything out with help from his contacts, leaves no trace and hopes to continue with their successful business and veneer of respectability as if nothing has happened. David’s character is very well written. He is cold, harsh and emotionless (except with his dogs).

Rachel is racked with guilt and cannot just let it go and so the two hurtle along pushing, pulling, poking and prodding at each other until they reach the point where something has to give. But who will be the winner?

The problem I have with this book is; there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for Rachel not to leave the relationship, and I use the word relationship very loosely. This is nothing more than a business arrangement, it was never built on love. She is strong enough to defy him time and again, so why not just leave him?

The start of the book was impressive and the ending was also good even if it left me with mixed feelings. I don’t mind that at all. The middle of the book, I felt kind of lost its way, maybe because it was being pushed along by this faux relationship. I put it down about halfway through and it took a good while for me to pick it back up again.

I am going to give the book 3 stars, Rebecca Whitney can certainly write and I would read another book by her, but it just felt forced at times.

Many thanks to the publishers, Mantle, for sending me a copy.
***

Angels Bleed

angels bleed

Angels Bleed
by Max Hardy

24 Hours

A remote country house.
A dead body in a blood spattered drawing room.
A 6ft square container next to the body.

24 hours

A padded cell.
A single chair bolted to the floor.
A woman bound hand and foot to the chair.

DI Saul has just 24 hours to find out who the killer of the dead body is.
24 Hours to work out how the woman in the cell is linked with the murder.
24 hours in which at every turn, his own life seems to be inextricably linked with the events that unfold.
24 hours before the container in the room explodes….

Warning: Adult Content and Sexually Explicit Material.

D.I. Saul is sent to a murder scene that turns out to be a set-up. There is also a box containing a person unknown, which is wired and primed to explode in 24 hours if Saul cannot find the true murderer.

The characters are excellent, real characters with plenty of background who you instantly want to know more about, D.I. John Saul especially. His personal life is a mess and now he finds he has been chosen by the ‘unknown caller’ to find the murderer.

Rebecca is already serving time in a psychiatric unit for the murder, to which she freely confessed. Her story is appalling; a debauched tale of sexual voyeurism and sadomasochism. The ‘unknown caller’ insists she is innocent and wants the true murderer found.

Angels Bleed is a crime thriller but it is extremely dark and edgy. There are lots of twists and turns which keep you guessing. The ending was unexpected and may not be to everyone’s liking, but I enjoyed it and thought it was fitting. Some of the sex scenes, however, are stomach churning in their subject matter, but they are a necessary part of the story. If you can handle the dark and sordid telling of that part of human nature, this book is well worthwhile.

I have one quibble, and it is quite a big one, although it has nothing to do with the story or the writing style. This book desperately needs a proof-reader. The mistakes were never-ending and often quite basic, and, for me anyway, detracted from what is a fine book.
***1/2

The Telling Error

the telling error

The Telling Error
by Sophie Hannah

All she wanted to do was take her son’s forgotten sports kit to school.

So why does Nicki Clements drive past the home of controversial newspaper columnist Damon Blundy eight times in one day? Blundy has been murdered, and the words ‘HE IS NO LESS DEAD’ daubed on his wall – in red paint, not blood. And, though Blundy was killed with a knife, he was not stabbed. Why?

Nicki, called in for questioning, doesn’t have any of the answers police are looking for. Nor can she tell them the truth, because although she is not guilty of murder, she is far from innocent. And the words on the wall are disturbingly familiar to her, if only she could remember where she has heard them before . . .

Nicki Clements, married mother of two, paranoid nervous wreck of a woman. She finds her world turned upside down when driving past the home of a murder victim. Recognising one of the policeman on duty, she turns the car and drives away. Avoiding the scene numerous times that fateful morning, she is captured on CCTV and brought in for questioning. Nicki didn’t murder Damon Blundy but her secrets could still land her in a whole lot of trouble. She is a gloriously satisfying character, both deep and dizzy; misunderstood and tortured. Her paranoia leads her down a very tricky road.

Apart from Nicki there are so many good characters in this novel. The murder victim himself is a controversial newspaper columnist who was not afraid of plain speaking. Then there is the idiosyncratic DC Simon Waterhouse, whose style of solving crimes verges on the Poirot. Which is interesting since the author, Sophie Hannah, has just written the new Poirot novel (can’t wait for that one!).

Sophie Hannah has a gift for psychological thrillers that mess with your head. They are so cleverly written with characters that are also believable. This story is a very up-to-date tale about how the internet invades all aspects of people’s lives now, and the severe consequences of not taking the damage that it can do seriously.

Anyone with a love of psychological thrillers will love this.
****

Thanks to the publishers for sending me a copy via Bookbridgr.