Wednesday, April 18, 2018

BOOKS: Eleanor Oliphant and the 100 Year Old Man

I read two of those 'got to read' books in January and had very different reactions to them. One was the best of the month, and the other was not.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, 400 pages

The clever title makes this memorable and maybe I inferred the type of story from the unusual title. I imagined it would be like A Man Called Ove, a touching growth story. I imagined wrong. So maybe my disappointment with the book was based on wrong expectations, and that is on me. The title event happens early and then some crazy, unrealistic things happen. Some of them I found mildly humourous, but most were so ridiculous that it strained credulity. There was an element of Forrest Gump, the idiot who lands in famous situations - here, Allan Karlson meets every major leader of the 20th century, becomes integrally involved in Chinese, American, Iranian, and Russian politics, and always lands on his feet after blowing something up. The story was mainly narrative - this happens, now this happens, now this happens. There was no character development and plenty of deaths. Also it was too long but I finished it without hating it, just a little bored. The title is the best part, along with the elephant.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (audiobook 11 h 2 min, read by Cathleen McCarron)

Again, mixed expectations changed my experience of the book, but this time, in a good way. Eleanor was a complex character, and her back story as it was gradually revealed drew me further and further into the story. Eleanor's sad life and loneliness will break your heart, and then as she gradually makes a friend everything begins to change. Any time a book gets me crying, it moves the book to the excellent pile. Eleanor Oliphant is delightful.
Add this to the loneliness books such as Our Souls at Night and  Eleanor Rigby,