Publisher: Borough Press
Publication Date: 20th September 2018
This book is one of the reasons I absolutely adore the bookblogging/booktube/bookstagram community. If I hadn’t have seen the haul video that Simon over at Savidge Reads had done in which this book was featured, I doubt it would have crossed my path.
I hate it when people say ‘if you loved such and such then you’ll love this’ – BUT if you loved Eleanor Olliphant as a character, I can almost guarantee you’ll love the protagonist in Eggshells, Vivian Lawlor. She’s an absolute joy to read.
In fact I’d go as far as to say that she’s one of THE most interesting characters I’ve ever encountered in a book.
Unemployed Vivian lives alone in her late Aunt Maud’s house. She has a sister (also called Vivian!) who she doesn’t see very much of. She doesn’t have any friends and finds it very difficult to interact with people.
She constructs conversations with people she meets by using stock phrases and reactions she’s seen on TV. She is extremely socially awkward and lives a lot of the time in her own head.
After breakfast, I go up to my bedroom and climb inside the wardrobe. I tap the wood at the back, but the door to Narnia hasn’t opened today so I close my eyes, feel around for a jumper and a pair of jeans and climb out.
Vivian believes she needs to find the portal to another world, a fairy world, where she belongs, having been told by her parents as a child that she was found by them, a changeling.
She spends her days travelling around the city of Dublin searching for this illusive portal to take her ‘home’ where she hopes she will feel like she belongs.
But that’s not all that Vivian does…..
She also, advertises for a friend called Penelope to see if her name rhymes with ‘antelope’.
She makes endless lists in her notebook of her favourite things and favourite words…..
She traces the route she has walked during the day onto greaseproof paper and then tries to fathom the shape she has made…..
She tries to use all of the chairs in her Aunt’s house equally so that none of them feel left out…….
She chooses to only eat blue food…..
She tries to cultivate her own smell, which basically involves her not washing…..
She never looks in mirrors……
And most importantly of all, she continues with her relentless search for the portal, for the chance to fit in.
Written entirely from Vivian’s perspective, this story has a stream of consciousness feel to it. You are basically living inside Vivian’s world and experiencing her ‘odd’ (yet at times scarily logical!) thoughts. Her day to day struggles with communication, the prying pitiful eyes of her neighbours and her sisters apparent abject disappointment in her.
The writing in this book is so rhythmic, lyrical and beautiful. Probably due in part to Vivian’s deep interest in language and words. Their construction, their derivation, their meaning and pronunciation.
‘Which word do you prefer: mortuary or morgue?’
‘Couldn’t tell you love’.
‘ I prefer morgue because it’s softer, but the G doesn’t smack of slabs and gurneys and fluorescent lighting the way that the harsh ‘T’ in mortuary does’
There is so much humour in Vivian’s story but also a very deeply hidden history of abuse at the hands of her parents. It is only briefly mentioned once or twice with no real detail or fleshing out. But this I think is absolutely perfect and testament to a very gifted writer, that the abuse didn’t need to be explicit or overt. You just know in your heart that something isn’t right with Vivian, right from the off, and you can hazard a guess that she’s not had the best of lives.
I tweeted whilst reading this book that I could find something to quote on each and every page. Some of the lines I’ve been back and re-read since finishing the book.
I get up and dust biscuit crumbs off my lap. I don’t know any suitable departing sentences so I think about how characters in Coronation Street leave. ‘Ta-ra chuck,’ I say, but it comes out flat and wrong, it lacks accent and punctuation and a Manchester upbringing
The touching way that Vivian tries to form a friendship is so heartwarming. She is always ridiculously pleased if she manages to hold a conversation that lasts longer than 3 or 4 back and forth sentences.
All Vivian really wants is to belong, feel accepted and find a kindred spirit who understands her thoughts and ideas. She’s a fully formed character who jumps right off the page and burrows deep into your heart.
She is certainly someone I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
I loved this book and I loved Vivian and I’ll be keeping it on my forever shelf so that I can go back and visit her again one day.
See you soon.
Bookish Chat xxx