Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray

I have been intrigued and completely excited to read this book since I was involved in the cover reveal a number of months ago. I think you can agree the cover is absolutely stunning, the image intriguing and the colour striking.

Blurb:

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?

My thoughts:

This book does definitely not disappoint. The story inside is just as gorgeous as the cover, if not more so. It becomes clear that the cover image is a depiction of Amy’s house. Amy is a hoarder – she is a keeper of things. The items she keeps remind her of happier, more simple times. As a result of keeping these things though, Amy’s house and life has become a little confusing. Though her house is overcrowded, her life appears empty: she seems lonely, and lost. Amy is definitely a character who we are able to empathise with, though I did find her determination to hang on to the past a little frustrating at times.

The book is split into sections, each of which names the types of objects Amy has been hoarding – bottles, mugs and even cookbooks that she admits she will never use. These objects become symbols for Amy’s life in many ways, as they are often stolen (just like her happiness has been stolen), broken (just like her life has been torn apart), and even hidden or forgotten about (Amy comes across as a character that lives on the periphery of society. She is engrossed in her own little world, and her hurtful, mysterious past.

Amy is a character that goes on quite a journey of self-discovery. The book explores some dark topics – memories, drug use, loss, loneliness and social isolation. There are highs and lows within the book. I do believe though, that it is accurate to say that this is a beautifully written, uplifting and heart-warming book. It has served, for me anyway, as a reminder of the importance of being neighbourly, friendly and kind, especially in the current climate, as this support is what brings Amy out of her shell.

I have absolutely adored this book from beginning to end. It is definitely an ideal read for fans Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Rosie Project. This is absolutely incredible debut and one that you do not want to miss.

Book Club Questions:

Is Amy a likeable character? What are her positive and negative traits? How do we learn about who she is?

Overall, I feel Amy is a likeable character. She is a complex character. As I said in my review, I would describe her as determined, craving social and emotional interaction and lonely. She is also a pleasant, creative and quirky character. I think some of her traits can be seen as both positives and negatives. For example, I found her determination to keep things quite frustrating at times, but this same quality is also what causes her to continue trying to solve the mystery of how and why her life fell apart. I believe we learn a lot about who she is from the objects she keeps, as these serve as symbols.

Amy says that her neighbours remind her of school. To what extent are neighbours or workmates like school classmates?

Neighbours are similar to school classmates as they are people who you see every day, but don’t necessarily like or have anything much in common with. They can be a help in times of emergency, but can also be quite a nuisance at times when you don’t want their help or involvement.

What part do the neighbours play in Amy’s life? How does that change throughout the narrative?

At first, the neighbours definitely appear to be nosy, interfering and unwanted nuisances in Amy’s life. As the narrative develops, you can see that the neighbours become more concerned for Amy’s welfare and take a softer approach, providing support when it is most needed. Especially in the case of the lovely Rich!

Why does Amy choose to share her troubled past with a child?

I think, by this point, Amy is really craving someone to talk to. However, she does not want to be judged and may not necessarily be looking for a solution. Or, she knows what the solution is (to face the past head on), but she isn’t ready to do that yet.

Throughout the story, there are hints as to why Amy collects certain things. Which did you find the most memorable/mysterious?

I think I found the cigarette lighters the most mysterious as I was really unsure of their current significance, especially as Amy does not smoke. I was especially confused as to why she wouldn’t give them up at the end, insisting she keep them as they’re only small.

What is the significance of Amy’s attachment to birds?

Birds are a symbol of freedom and peace. While she is stuck in the post, longing for things to be how they were, she is unable to achieve these things. These are also things she felt she had achieved during her happiest moments with Tim.

How did the flashbacks effect the pace of the story? How did the events of the back story compare with the present day events?

The use of the flashbacks definitely slowed the narrative down, so that we could focus on Amy’s whole story and understand her character better. It also provided tension and cliff-hangers to keep me hooked! The events of the back story serve as a mirror, to show the kind of character Amy was, and could be again. The younger Amy we see in the flashbacks is creative, sociable, hard-working, easy-going, fun-loving and most of all: positive. As readers, we hope and wish some of these things will be achievable again for Amy.

Were there any hints that the villain of the story was not trust-worthy?

If there were, I certainly did not pick up on them!

If you were Amy, would you have been able to forgive Chantel?

I think I would have chosen to forgive her on some level, for my own inner peace and to ensure harmony moving forward. How much I would be able to trust or rely on her in future, or get the relationship we had before back, is questionable!

What would you say is the key message of the book?

For me, the two key messages of the book were: to show neighbourliness and kindness to others at all times, but especially when someone appears to be struggling. Also, to not pre-judge or judge others as you don’t know what they have gone through in their past to make them the person they are today.

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