It’s hard for me to figure out how to rate this book, probably because it’s so far from my typical choice of reading material.
I can’t recall why I picked it up, but the narrative voice was what hooked me. Eleanor almost comes off like she has Asberger’s or something–she’s extremely articulate, and seems to have next to no concept of what’s expected of her socially. She’s also an unreliable narrator, judging others for having no social graces when in fact, she’s the one who erred. This was amusing, and I mostly just read to see what she’d say or do next, in a series of episodic events in her life tending (so it seemed) more or less toward nothing. For the first half of the book or so, she fixates upon a local front man from a band, deciding he’s the one, even though they’ve never met, and she objectively realizes that she’s not very attractive (having a burn on half of her face, though we won’t find out why for some time), while he’s gorgeous. She is undeterred, and goes about on a self-improvement scheme to make herself his equal to the best of her ability. Meanwhile, every Wednesday night she has a phone call with her Mummy, who is –somewhere, we’re not told where, but we’re led to believe it’s an institution of some kind. Mummy is very angry, and every phone call leaves Eleanor feeling awful and needing, so she believes, massive amounts of vodka, which she consumes every weekend, all weekend long.
Then, unusual things begin to happen. Eleanor finds herself befriended by Raymond, the IT specialist at her workplace, almost against her will. She and Raymond encounter an elderly man who collapses in the street, and they save his life, thus bringing him and his family into their circle as well.
As Eleanor’s fantasy toward the singer progresses, though, eventually she’s forced to confront reality. Spoiler alert: there’s a really disturbing attempted suicide scene, but it precipitates the second half of the book, where Eleanor learns what really happened in her past to give her the scar, and why her Mummy is the way she is. I saw most of this coming, but there’s a surprise twist about Mummy at the very end that helped explain the inconsistencies in her character that had previously really bothered me.
The subject matter is dark, but it’s handled in a hopeful way.
My rating: ***1/2
Language: it’s there, though not overwhelming
Sexual content: it’s there but mild
Violence: it’s there but not gratuitous
Political content: none that I can recall