Book review: Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray
Everything is Beautiful - Eleanor Ray
Considering the year we've just had, the title of Eleanor Ray's debut novel definitely has some attraction. And thankfully no, the title Everything is Beautiful doesn't turn out to be ironic, but evidently you have to go through some tough times and maybe even reach the bottom before there is some consolation to be found in its belief that there is always the hope of a fresh start.
As far as Amy Ashton is concerned, the bottom is a point that she is rapidly heading towards. In her thirties, she has been working for financial advice firm for the last ten years. It was never meant to be this way. She started out as a day job while she waited to get recognised for her painting, but has given up on her dreams of being an artist. Amy seems to have given up on a lot of things around this time, as it was eleven years ago that her boyfriend Tim disappeared with her best friend Chantel.
It was such a shock to Amy that she hasn't been able to let go, still collecting mementos that most other people would consider rubbish. With local newspapers piled up in the hall, her home is stuffed with mugs, wine bottles, key-rings, vases, lighters and china birds. It's got to such a state that a neighbour has called the council, complaining of mice and even rats coming from her house. Sociability is also a problem for Amy, who tends to shut herself off in the lost world of her house. How can she leave when there is a chance that Tim and Chantel might come back?
Although Amy keeps her problems at home away from work, she doesn't mix well with her colleagues and is uninterested in the attentions of Liam, the new head of marketing. When some new neighbours move in next door, a small family with two children, Amy's first instinct is to keep them at a distance, but somehow she can't help but be gradually drawn back into the real world, but it's going to be a bumpy ride.
While Amy does seem to have a little bit of a problem, her behaviour is not entirely unreasonable. OK, the expectation that two friends who walked out of her life over 10 years ago might make a return is unlikely, but there is a mystery of sorts in their departure, leaving Amy with no sense of closure. No-one, not even close friends and relatives, have heard from Tim or Chantel since then. And then some tenuous clues that Amy overlooked all those years ago suddenly come to the surface now that her new neighbours have upset the unbalanced balance she has known up to now.
Everything is Beautiful does indeed prove to be a light and heartening read, stepping fairly delicately around Amy's personal problems as she seeks to find a way out of her situation and perhaps even find some romance. It's not without some tensions however, and the mystery of Tim and Chantel's disappearance does develop into something much more intriguing. Primarily however, Everything is Beautiful lives up to its promise, recognising that life can get on top of us all, that terrible things happen, but that there is always hope of new beginnings.