“Eleanor is trembling as she pushes the attic door closed. She thinks that she will never have a daughter. Mothers and daughters are horrible, horrible to each other.”
Eleanor is one of those books I nearly gave up on, but am glad that I stuck with. To begin with, it is quite a tearjerker. It’s the perfect book for a masochistic reader, because an air of melancholy hangs over most of the book. I can usually deal with tragedy in books (usually by crying my heart out) but with Eleanor, I was actually relieved to just put the book away for a while, and to be honest I wasn’t particularly excited to get back to it. The fact that the book takes a while for the various threads in the book to start connecting didn’t help either –I am not a very patient reader. But I am so, so thrilled to have read through to the end because past the halfway mark, this book really takes wings.
That is not to say that it gets any happier–in fact the gloominess continues almost into the final pages, but as the characters heal, the reader does too.
The protagonist Eleanor is one half of a pair. Her twin Esmeralda is killed in an accident, leaving her family in tatters. Her mother Agnes (now drunk and depressed), blames her for her sister’s death. Her father, Paul blames Agnes for the accident and for failing to take care of Eleanor. On the whole, a terrible place for any child to be in. To add to all this, Eleanor keeps disappearing into thin air, and reappearing somewhere else (sometimes within hours, sometimes after days). Her reappearances are almost always accompanied by severe injuries. Eleanor can only rely on Jack, her best friend with a tumultous family life of his own, who loves her, to get to the heart of where she goes when she disappears and why.
A reader who perseveres with the book is sure to be rewarded. As the many roads in this story converge, they create a picture of hope. It is not quite science fiction, as much as it is a philosophical imagination that drives the story forward. It is not quite a ghost story as much as it is about actions having long shadows.
Written in captivating but simple prose, Eleanor is about mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, loves and losses, and ghosts –past, present and future. Eleanor is all about family.
FTC disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review.