Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

I’m so sorry I haven’t posted in a while but these past couple of weeks have been mental! I moved back into halls of residence last Sunday for my third year at university (how exciting?!). So whilst I’m studying, I was thinking about writing a few posts about the current books I’m reading. I’m an Literature student so there will be plenty, ha ha. So, here we go:

Last week’s read was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (whom, may I add, is visiting university in a few weeks time and when I found out I fan-girled SO HARD). This book was such an easy read, one you could do in a couple of days, it’s hard to put it down. I’d heard nothing but good things about it and I was so keen to start the year with a book I knew I was going to love. Eleanor is a strong, feisty, independent 30 year old, whom over the course of the novel you learn to love. She has the same routine week in, week out. An uninspiring, low paid job keeps her busy Monday to Friday, a 15 minute phone call with her imprisoned “Mummy” every Wednesday, and her weekends are spent with two bottles of vodka and a pizza from the local store. She is a woman who avoids social contact, and despite her impeccable vocabulary, she does not recognise pop culture (such as the Power Rangers, Top Gear and thinks ‘Bobbi Brown’ is lazy for not turning up to work). It quickly becomes abundantly clear that she is not completely fine, despite her reassuring herself. She meets Raymond some time into the novel, who shows her the importance of kindness, and how she deserves happiness. Throughout the rest of the story the reader sees their friendship blossom, to the point where Eleanor begins to confront her troubled past. Little by little, the reader becomes aware of the terrible trauma she endured at such a young age. It is a novel filled with lump-in-your-throat-moments that make you feel so much empathy for her but also so much joy and warmth. Until, those last five pages. That plot twist. “Police confirmed today that the bodies recovered from the scene of last month’s Maida Vale house fire belonged to Sharon Smyth (29) and her youngest daughter Marianne (4).” It soon becomes obvious that “Mummy” is just a figment of her imagination. This realisation was so startling that I had to go over the sentence at least five times to realise I’d read it correctly. It is such a strong comment on the mental impacts of a toxic mother-daughter relationship, but despite this, it only gets mentioned in passing once more on the second to last page: “I’m fine. I mean, yes, obviously, I’ve got a lot of things to work through, very serious things. Dr Temple and I are going to keep talking about all of it – Marianne’s death, how Mummy died too, and why I pretended for all those years that she was still there, still talking to me.” I’m not a person against cliff hangers at all, if anything they’re all the range in fiction right now, but when you’ve invested hours into a character and their development, it is exasperating to be thrown a huge curveball that has been brewing to burst throughout the novel, for it then to be left hanging in the air. It is a shame because until those last few moments, I’d been loving Eleanor Oliphant, and I wasn’t expecting to be feeling so lost and frustrated at the ending.


Coming of Age

It’s Friday evening and it’s the first one in three months that I’m home from work early, so I’m celebrating with a large glass of Merlot and a face mask.

The last few weeks have been hectic, but in my spare time I’ve found some amazing podcasts that have inspired me so much that I felt the need to write this post about one thing in particular : being a girl transitioning into womanhood, especially in our generation. What does it take to be a woman in 2018?

May I first point out that being a woman is so much more than hair, makeup, and having a period.

There are so many connotations surrounding what it takes being a woman, and how we should behave. Slut-shaming was at a high in the 90s, yet the early-woman would make noises during sex to let other potential partners in the area know that she’s in the mood, and so she would have sex with multiple partners and it was the fastest sperm from all of these partners that would “win”, and so becomes natural selection. (You can google that anywhere). But think of a young woman not even twenty years ago, trying to find a suitable partner (and part of that process being: sleeping with him), yet being slut-shamed for it. Why is it that? It was only until about four years ago that I realised myself that sex wasn’t just for the man, that I could enjoy it too. We are brought up believing that sex is enjoyable for only the man, and that our job is to please him. But why? Recently, we saw in the media the public shaming of Megan Barton-Hanson (who starred on Love Island), because she slept with three men in the villa. But how was she supposed to know if they were suitable partners if she didn’t experiment? She said herself that she had no shame in doing so and damn right, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy sex.

As much as an advocate for feminism as I am, I understand that I am speaking from a privileged perspective, and that I can’t speak from that of women of colour, but part of being a feminist is to fight the fight despite your age, race or colour. I’ve been a feminist for as long as I can remember, but I also realise that my fight hasn’t been half as hard as women in a more disadvantaged position, and so (as privileged white women) we have to fight this fight harder because we are the ones in the foreground. For example, it was only last month that Ireland made abortion legal, which is insane. I’m pro-life, as I can’t understand why if you are pregnant due to rape, or you simply cannot afford to bring a baby into this world and not look after it properly, then why would you put yourself through it? Abortion is a very personal thing to have to go through, without all the stigma attached to it. It is the woman’s body, and so she is the one who gets a say in what happens.

We’re also expected, as women, to be saved by a man and get married and have babies. I’ve always had this ideology in my head, and I blame that on my upbringing. You do not need a man to “save” you, because you can do just fine on your own. It’s only recently I think that women are realising that you don’t have to get married or have children, and you can do what you please in life without being judged for it. Equality works both ways, and we’re now seeing men get paternity leave which in itself is amazing, but what annoys me about it is the men that don’t take it up, or don’t ask for it. Fewer men are taking the offer. The world is changing and no one should step out and not feel confident; whether that’s in what they’re wearing or the financial situation, you’re probably very good at whatever you’re doing and you can take control. We are powerful people, we have powerful jobs, we have powerful opinions and actually, you should start listening to us because we matter.

Women are always asked, “where do you get your confidence from?”, and you don’t have to get it from anywhere. You are allowed to just have that belief in yourself. No one has ever gone up to any man and asked him where he has got his confidence from? It’s wrong. For example, women will only apply for a job if they’re 100% sure, but a man is only 60% sure and has the confidence to go along with it. Everyone wants to have that. There’s a change in culture here, everyone wants to work flexibly and no one should be afraid to ask for that. But the concept of a job or a family shouldn’t be a thing because you can have both, if that’s what you want.

Coming of age in this generation is so hard, there are all sorts in the media telling young women how they should look, how they should behave and how much they should be earning. But if I’ve learnt anything, as long as you’re happy with yourself and you have goals you want to achieve in life, everything else will fall into place around you.

I cannot recommend Oenone Forbat’s podcast: Adulting enough, to anyone out there, as she tries to make sense of what it is like to be growing up in this modern world, and she covers all sorts of topics from politics to literature to controversial ones. They’re amazing and I can’t stop listening to them.

Models vs Glasses

Can you honestly tell me that you’ve seen a model on the runway, in a high end fashion magazine or on a billboard wearing glasses (unless that’s what they’re promoting eg. Specsavers)?

As a glasses wearer myself, I’ve been consistently told, “you look prettier without your glasses”, especially as I’ve got older. But why is this? I believe that it’s because of the unspoken stigma around wearing glasses. I saw an article just this morning about Ariana Grande, an artist I have the utmost respect for, struggling to read cues and obviously squinting. Fans have reached out to tell her to get glasses, and who knows she may have a pair at home, but when on TV / in the public eye she’s more than happy to struggle to read instead of just wearing a pair. This is one of countless examples about celebrities being “against” wearing glasses.

Celebrities are everywhere, and they’re seen as role models to not just the younger generation, but all people alike. Could one argue that the stigma around not wearing glasses stem from them? Models aren’t seen wearing them. But why?

There was a time where wearing glasses was sexy, the most commonly sexualised wearer of glasses being the secretary. But why does a woman have to be sexualised to wear a pair of glasses? It’s a shallow outlook that women have to be “sexy” and “intelligent”, but not as intelligent as a man. Their intelligence is downplayed due to their sexuality.

Glasses wearers are seen as more intelligent, some are seen as intimidating. People don’t like that.

It’s a personal mission of mine to get glasses wearers into modelling and into the public eye. We’re not any less pretty because we have worse eyesight. It’s ludicrous to think that models are picked because of their face, figure and lack of glasses.

High end fashion industries need to broaden their horizons in the type of people they hire. It’s 2018. It’s the year of change and development. It’s time that glasses wearers are seen as the same as non-glasses wearers.

London 17.02.18

For a girl who likes to think of herself as a true British stereotype: I try to be prim and proper when applicable, and my body fluid is 99% tea, but I had never visited the capital before February this year! Disgraceful, right?

Thanks to my other half for being the hopeless romantic he is, he surprised me to a lovely day trip for my Valentine’s gift. We got up at the crack of dawn to make it to Manchester in time for the first train down to London (may I just say how amazing Virgin Trains are, especially when compared to Northern Rail?!). We made it into Euston just in time to witness the morning commute for most, and the tube is the most nerve wracking, exciting thing! First stop, Houses of Parliament, then to Westminster Abbey, across to Buckingham Palace and then to Trafalgar Square (and in and out of designer shops, Harrods and Hamley’s on our way). We ended our day on the London Eye and in Sea World, a must. We arrived back home at fine midnight, ran to get a takeaway and collapsed against each other. I think we slept away the whole of the next day!

What an amazing day; I was so touched by the gesture to surprise me to somewhere where I’ve always wanted to go, even though we probably didn’t even do half of London, it’s a good excuse to go back soon!

Halkidiki Trip 2017

Our first holiday together was more than one to remember! What started as a night in with face masks and bottles of Old Mount Cider, scrolling on various websites, became our most beautiful holiday to this day. Cue: Halkidiki.

The place is so perfect no photos need filters. It’s so Greek, it’s like living the real-time version of Mamma Mia. It’s amazing, and I would recommend to anyone to visit this place before they die. The sunsets are breathtaking, and best enjoyed whilst strolling across the one long beach that scopes the island.My partner and I spent one week in this wonderful place: our days on the beach and our nights in the town. I’m struggling to find words to describe this place, it’s unreal.

We tried a different taverna every lunch time, delving into the local delicacies (which were delicious). By night, these taverna turned into the most amazing cocktail bars, with no alcohol measurements! I think the piña colada is the strongest I’ve ever tasted, and that’s by my standards!

As amazing as the days and nights were, the highlight of the trip was the stray dog that took a liking to us. We named him Benny, but his real name was λιοντάρι, Greek for “Lion”. He approached us on our first night, and then again at the beach the next day:

He genuinely took a liking to us, and we to him. He found us at night and joined us for our caricature paintings:

And we gave him a bowl of water wherever we went. The holiday really wouldn’t have been the same without him. A local man asked us why we cared so much about a stray dog, to which we replied, “we just love animals”, and he told us that not many people are like us (which was flattering), and that Benny was stray, yes, but looked after by all of the locals here. His vet bills, his food, his shelter, paid for by everyone who lived in the tiny town. I have never met such caring people, especially for an older dog. It warmed my heart.

We plan to go back to Thessaloniki one day, although it breaks my heart that Benny might not be there anymore. But, to anyone wanting a true cultural escape: Halkidiki is the place for you, and a place that will touch your soul.

Paris Trip

The trip of a lifetime, with by the love of my life.

I’m one to plan way in advance, but this one is my personal best. A month after his birthday, I was already on to planning his surprise 21st.

The City of Love is a place close to my heart, as I’ve grown up with the tale of my dad taking my mum on a surprise trip there back in the late 90’s and proposing to her at the top of the Eiffel Tower. It’s safe to say my expectations for my own proposal are fairly high.

So, late one July night, I decided to grab life with both hands and make a spontaneous decision for once in my life. Booking everything online was a first for me, and the most nerve wracking thing I’ve probably ever done! I was panicking until 36 hours before, when we could print off our boarding tickets! What an amazing decision it was though.

Surprising him was almost as good as the trip itself, I brought him fresh croissants for breakfast to try and give him a clue (with no luck), but I’ve never seen him look so grateful.

We flew on the 17th July, and had the best few days! The first day was spent exploring the local vicinity, the Eiffel Tower included. The view is breathtaking!

We walked all the way up and took the elevator down, as recommended, and it was totally worth it!

We then explored our hotel, as it was near dinner time, and we stayed in the gorgeous Pullman Paris Hotel. The view from our room was amazing:

We ate dinner by the Sienne that night, as there was a festival taking place, and he tried the infamous Tartare (which definitely didn’t appeal to me!).

On the second day, we did an Open Bus Tour which was such a good value for money and I would recommend to anyone who goes! It was 34€ to hop on and off and go all around Paris to see all of the main attractions – there was even an offer to do a two or three day ticket, but we just stuck to the one. We saw the Palais de Versailles, le grande palais and le petite palais, le Piéces de Théâtres, les Palais Garnier, le louvré, le Arc de Triomphe, le Champs Elysées, Nôtre Dame, le Moulin Rouge and le Sacré Cœur. It was a very busy day but one we’ll never forget!

Our last night was spent dining on the finest French delicacies, les escargots, and the most beautiful wine I’ve ever tasted.

It was a trip of a lifetime, one I’ll certainly never forget. The city itself is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, and it definitely won’t be my last trip there!

Sad to be home now but I can’t wait for my next adventure with my best friend.