So I finally got round to reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. This is the book that everyone has been raving about this year, so I don’t know why it took me so long. I mean, a few days after it being published Reese Witherspoon snapped it up to make into a film. And now that I’ve read it, I know what all the buzz is about. It is hopeful, heartbreaking and raw. It is unique.
I was so chuffed to read a good chunk of it while in Glasgow, the city where it is set. This book is very much an ode to Glasgow, portraying the authentic kindness of Glaswegians. Yes, ok I’m biased as I’m originally from just outside Glasgow, but the characters, the nae bother attitude and the warmth is so familiar to me.
So when it was suggested that I read Buddha Da, a story of a working-class Glaswegian family whose lives are turned upside down when the Dad discovers Buddhism I jumped at the chance. And crikey, I’m so glad I did. Yes, Buddha Da is a completely different story to Eleanor Oliphant but the kindness and down to earth attitude is the same. It is a unbeliavable read.
For those of you that have read Eleanor Oliphant, I’m sure you’ll agree Eleanor is a hilarious. With her velcro shoes, always clutching her shopper, she is comically judgemental with no awareness of social nuances. She has an array of foibles which appear amusing and endearing, but as I got more involved in Eleanor’s narrative I realised her foibles stem from her survival instinct. On Friday evenings she buys two large bottles of vodka which she drinks over the weekend, she is neither drunk nor sober. Eleanor is not a victim; she is a modern-day heroine that brings the taboo issue of loneliness to the fore:
These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.
For me, Raymond is the hero is the book. He is so typically Glaswegian; an unassuming, everyday bloke who Eleanor describes as porcine. Unintentionally he erodes Eleanor’s prejudices and offers her kindness and friendship, something that she has never had before. This opens up to Eleanor a whole new world, one that is hopeful.
Buddha Da is also a hopeful read. It tells the story of the McKenna family; 12 year-old Anne Marie, mum Liz and dad Jimmy who discovers Buddhism. It is a warm, endearing story immersing you in Glaswegian family life as it is narrated throughout using the Glasgow patter:
Ma Da’s a nutter. Radio Rental. He’d dae anythin for a laugh so he wid; went doon the shops wi a perra knickers on his heid, tellt the wifie next door we’d won the lottery and were flittin tae Barbados, but that wis daft stuff compared tae whit he’s went and done noo. He’s turnt intae a Buddhist.
Although I’ve got no family members that have discovered Buddhism quite yet, this description of Jimmy is so familiar to me. I felt as though I really knew the McKenna family and I loved them. There are no goodies or baddies in this book, just characters that appear real, truly portraying the warmth and humour of the Glasgow people. Yes, Buddha Da is also an ode to Glasgow.
If you’re not from Scotland, please don’t let the Glasgow patter put you off this brilliant book; as it was Liz, my relative (through marriage) from the US who only moved to Glasgow a few months ago that recommended Buddha Da to me. I had just finished reading Eleanor Oliphant and she insisted that as I loved Eleanor, I’d also love Buddha Da. She was so right. Thank you Liz.
Can I just end this blog post with a plea to Reese Witherspoon? If you do ever read this post Reese, please do make the film of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely fine in Glasgow and not in the US. Eleanor and Raymond truly belong in Glasgow. This unique and beautiful city and its people are at the heart of Eleanor’s story.