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Eleanor Rigby (2004)

by Douglas Coupland

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1,950336,549 (3.62)68
Following the hugely acclaimed bestseller Hey Nostradamus! comes a major new novel from Douglas Coupland: the wonderfully warm, funny, life-affirming story of Liz Dunn, a woman who has spent her whole life alone and lonely - until now... This is a brilliant work of commercial literary fiction from an author who just gets better and better. 'My name is Liz Dunn. The Liz Dunns of this world take classes in croissant baking, and would rather chew on soccer balls than deny their children muesli. They own one sex toy, plus one cowboy fantasy that accompanies its use... Look at me: I am a traitor to my name: I'm not cheerful; I'm drab. I'm crabby and friendless. And lonely.' Liz Dunn is 42 years old, and lonely. Her house is like 'a spinster's cell block', and she may or may not snore - there's never been anybody to tell her. Then one day in 1997, with the comet Hale Bopp burning bright in the blue-black sky, Liz receives an urgent phone call asking her to visit a young man in hospital. All at once, the loneliness that has come to define her is ripped away by this funny, smart, handsome young stranger, Jeremy. Her son. Eleanor Rigby is a tale of loneliness and hope that introduces Douglas Coupland's finest character yet. Illuminated by a wonderfully gentle, searching wisdom, it sees Coupland ascend to a new level of peace and grace in his ever-more-extraordinary career.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
I was tempted to give up on this book because I found the relentless negative voice of the narrator, at the start, draining. However, I persisted.
Liz Dunn, a woman in her late 30's is lonely. She relies on her daily routines and rituals to keep herself functioning. When she receives a phone call from a hospital, saying her names appears on the medical bracelet of a young man named Jeremy, her life moves on to a different tangent.
Jeremy is her son, adopted at birth, whom she has never met. Their rapport is immediate, but Jeremy has an underlying health condition and needs her support.
The relationship with her son, although short-lived is beautifully wrought but leaves Liz feeling more isolated and alone than before.
As anticipated the title of the book refers to the Beatles song of that name and Liz Dunn is the writers visualization of that person.
The pace and the tenor of the book did improve but the emphasis on Jeremy's visions I found strange and was unsure of their relevance to the story.
There was also a somewhat farcical incident in the latter stages of the book that I found unconvincing. ( )
  HelenBaker | Sep 28, 2019 |
My Mom recommended this book to me. More of a chick story than I usually read, but I loved it none the less. There are lots of surprises in this reflection on loneliness, as well as, much humor in the quirky characters. ( )
  Brauer11431 | Apr 16, 2019 |
Liz Dunn is one of the lonely people. The only others she interacts with on a regular basis are work colleagues and her family consisting of her mother, her brother William and her sister Leslie. But that's all about to change when she gets a phone call from the hospital to say they've admitted a patient who had no identification other than a MedicAlert bracelet which had Liz down as the person to be contacted. Arriving at the hospital she finds a young man named Jeremy who turns out to be the son she gave up for adoption after giving birth to at the age of sixteen. Jeremy has primary progressive multiple sclerosis and as he isn’t taking care of himself his girlfriend has kicked him out. Liz agrees to let him stay with her so they can get to know each other better while there’s still time.

The novel switches back and forth between when Liz meets Jeremy and several years later with reminiscences from her past including finding a dead body and a school trip to Rome for Liz and her classmates. While it touches on some dark subjects such as loneliness and death the tone of the book never becomes bleak and is often imbued with touches of humour and even descends into farce at one point. Despite the constant time shifts this story is easy to follow and works really well in getting to know the main character. A very quick and enjoyable read. ( )
1 vote AHS-Wolfy | Feb 18, 2019 |
This was the fifth Coupland book I read, & I think its up there as a favourite with Girlfriend in a Coma. I liked the way the story built to its conclusion, although that conclusion was a little too soppy for my tastes. I thought the basic themes of the book were interesting - how people can change those around them, & how parents & the children they had put up for adoption attempt to come to terms with being in one another's lives again. As with a lot of Coupland's stuff, he takes reality & mixes in a bit of fantasy to mess with the story a little, & as I've always found he makes it work as he doesn't take it too far. Good book, nothing too taxing. ( )
  SadieBabie | Jun 23, 2018 |
Douglas Coupland is about my age and I've been reading his books since the beginning of his career. I always feel like I can relate to what he's writing and he's a great writer and story teller. ( )
  debbie.menzel | Feb 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
And as the narrative descends into a series of wacky, quasi-spiritual coincidences involving meteorites and foreign soul mates, it tranforms from a novel into a Rube Goldberg device brutally determined to produce a nugget of poignancy. It's a lost opportunity. While Liz insists she is unique, she's got sisters -- a legion of cranky-plain heroines from Jane Eyre to Peppermint Patty. Instead of following their path, ''Eleanor Rigby'' dwindles chapter by chapter into a high-art twist on chick lit -- aiming for bittersweet but tasting at last suspiciously of artificial sweetener.
 
At a cursory look this book risks whimsy, seems a rather slender story about a middle-aged woman finding herself. A more careful reading reveals an utterly integrated and impossibly lightly held fable of blindness and vision. Its title acts as exactly the social synonym it is, not just for loneliness but for popular expectations of women of a certain age and spinster state, nothing more to look forward to than being buried along with their names.
added by Nickelini | editThe Guardian, Ali Smith (Oct 9, 2004)
 
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I had always thought that a person born blind and given sight later in life through the miracles of modern medicine would feel reborn.
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Following the hugely acclaimed bestseller Hey Nostradamus! comes a major new novel from Douglas Coupland: the wonderfully warm, funny, life-affirming story of Liz Dunn, a woman who has spent her whole life alone and lonely - until now... This is a brilliant work of commercial literary fiction from an author who just gets better and better. 'My name is Liz Dunn. The Liz Dunns of this world take classes in croissant baking, and would rather chew on soccer balls than deny their children muesli. They own one sex toy, plus one cowboy fantasy that accompanies its use... Look at me: I am a traitor to my name: I'm not cheerful; I'm drab. I'm crabby and friendless. And lonely.' Liz Dunn is 42 years old, and lonely. Her house is like 'a spinster's cell block', and she may or may not snore - there's never been anybody to tell her. Then one day in 1997, with the comet Hale Bopp burning bright in the blue-black sky, Liz receives an urgent phone call asking her to visit a young man in hospital. All at once, the loneliness that has come to define her is ripped away by this funny, smart, handsome young stranger, Jeremy. Her son. Eleanor Rigby is a tale of loneliness and hope that introduces Douglas Coupland's finest character yet. Illuminated by a wonderfully gentle, searching wisdom, it sees Coupland ascend to a new level of peace and grace in his ever-more-extraordinary career.

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