A very unusual book, told from the perspective of a young, then older girl / woman as she moves through her life. As the book states, though it is written very much like an autobiographical account, it really only focuses on the key moments of her life – the moments that hold the most impact, the most important or pivotal moments. For that reason, one could easily be forgiven for thinking it a more sensationalised life story – but it really isn’t. Take your own life as an example, think of the biggest and most influential moments of your life – be they positive or negative, if you put them into a story, but omitted most of what was in between each event, you’d probably have quite a sensational story of your own!
This story focuses on the key moments from the life of Eleanor Maud, a young girl from a nice, loving family. Her parents love her and she has a very close relationship with her older brother Joe. Despite coming from a loving and protective home, Ellie still sees the ugly side of life, her parents placing trust where it doesn’t belong, or brushes with death of family / friends. However the biggest exposure to the darker side of life for Ellie is when she meets Jenny Penny. Jenny is a girl of roughly the same age but who doesn’t come from a loving or responsible home. Jenny struggles with life and though she never really envies Ellie and her family, she longs to be a part of it. Ellie’s realisation that not all families are the same, and not everyone is as lucky as her is a key theme throughout the book. Even later in the book when she is older, this idea that, through all life has thrown at her, she should still feel fortunate really holds true.
The story, despite being fiction, feels so honest and true – there are elements that MUST be from Sarah Winman (the author)’s own life. Inspired by events in hers, others and indeed all of our lives, this is one book that I really found difficult to put down. I had to read on, I worried about the characters – I wanted to share their good times and bad.
Comparisons with Mark Haddon I think are very fair (especially if you have read ‘A spot of Bother’)but also a very personal style of her own, I shall be looking forward to Sarah Winman’s next book.
You’ll laugh and cry in equal measure and if you are as lucky as me, recognize some of your own family’s dysfunctional brilliance!