Everything Is Beautiful – Eleanor Ray

Published By: Piatkus
Pages: 336
Released On: 16/09/2021

When Amy Ashton’s world fell apart eleven years ago, she started a collection.

Just a few keepsakes of happier times: some honeysuckle to remind herself of the boy she loved, a chipped china bird, an old terracotta pot . . . Things that others might throw away, but to Amy, represent a life that could have been.

Now her house is overflowing with the objects she loves – soon there’ll be no room for Amy at all. But when a family move in next door, a chance discovery unearths a mystery, and Amy’s carefully curated life begins to unravel. If she can find the courage to face her past, might the future she thought she’d lost still be hers for the taking?

*****

This is an absolutely gorgeous book. I’d had it on my bookshelf for a while and kept passing it up to read others, but it turned out to be just what I needed. Everything about it is beautiful.

I love that Eleanor has chosen for our protagonist Amy to be a hoarder (that term isn’t actually used to describe her but there’s a certain understanding that that is what she is), and she’s chosen not to make it a negative trait. We read a lot and watch these programmes about people who hoard, but they always seem to have a negative undercurrent about them, a sense that they’re being judged, when it’s been explored before that hoarding is a mental illness – so why is it not given the time of day that every other type of illness is? So yes, that was my favourite bit, that whilst some of the other characters were concerned about it, it wasn’t actually a bad thing for her. It was how she coped with things (no spoilers) and we can see her progress as a character through the things that she keeps.

It’s actually got a really important moral feeling to it. When I bought it, I guess I just assumed it was going to be a happily-ever-after type book, and whilst there’s a sense of that, it is so much more. There’s twists and turns and secrets that I wasn’t expecting when I started reading it. It really keeps you on your toes and you end up following the plot at the same time as the characters.

I really liked the format of the story, one chapter set in the present, then the following set in the past, then the present, and so on and so on. I have found some books a bit confusing when they go back and forward in time but this was perfectly created. You could clearly see the link between the past chapter and what was going on in Amy’s life at that time, and it uncovered so much more than just writing the present scenes.

There’s one review on the book cover that says it’s “perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant”. Like most people, I adored that book, and I can see the link between the two. They’re both unlikely heroes but we get swept up in their adventures.

Eleanor Ray writes about grief in such a sensitive way. I have experienced my own fair share of grief, and whilst mine didn’t show itself through hoarding, I can easily see how it could do. The rush of endorphins you get when you buy something new, the comfort these new purchases bring, and the secondary grief you may feel when something is broken or lost. This could have been a really difficult topic to write about and whilst I’m sure Eleanor did her research for it, I think she has a natural ability within her writing. It’s completely believable, not over the top, carefully done, and it just feels so real, like you could go and knock on Amy’s door down the street.

I liked some of the supporting characters – the next door neighbour Richard and his sons Charles and Daniel were lovely, her other neighbour Rachel, she took some time but by the end I was a fan of hers. And then there’s the characters I didn’t particularly like, like Liam or Jack. They’re written like that though, so I don’t feel bad that I didn’t like them. And then there were some characters that were very middle of the road for me. People like Nina and Tim and Chantel. Important to the plot, but didn’t get me going in a positive or a negative way.

I do believe this is Eleanor’s first book (please correct me if I’m wrong Eleanor, if you are reading this – if you are, hi!) but I will definitely be keeping an eye out for future works. If this one is anything to go by, they’ll be entertaining, interesting, joyful, cosy and like a great big hug from a friend.

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