Eleanor Rigby

Eleanor Rigby

by Douglas Coupland

By turns funny and heartbreaking, Eleanor Rigby is a fast-paced read and a haunting exploration of the ways in which loneliness affects us all.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.65
  • Pages: 272
  • Publish Date: May 30th 2006 by Bloomsbury USA
  • Isbn10: 1582346437
  • Isbn13: 9781582346434

What People Think about "Eleanor Rigby"

Do you ever feel like the Tin Man? I feel like that one Scrabble tile that has no letter on it. I remember being inspired by Generation X and feeling like I was a piece of living history. So, Im not exactly sure how to review this book. Im one of those irritating reviewers that likes to talk about how the book makes me feel and how it relates to me (see: self absorbed). I loved this book. I love Coupland for stringing together words, for giving me my faith and still letting me be a skeptic.

Doug Couplands Eleanor Rigby is tailor-made for dedicated readers fond of literature-focused social networking sites and who maybe, you know, sometimes think they should have more face to face interaction with other human beings but friends, in flesh and blood, can just be so exhausting. Coupland overuses absolutely groan-inducing plot developments, not just tugging at ones heartstrings but grabbing on tightly and wrenching the goddamn hell out of said strings until you want to kick the author in the balls to make him let go. Lizs internal dialogues are excellent, and Couplands portrayal of a lonely persons reflections and perceptions could carry the book on its own.

....Where do they all belong?" In the song, Eleanor Rigby and Father MacKenzie are lonely and so caught up in their own sorrows that they don't see the lives around them or reach out to others; they see only their own issues. Coupland is a wonderful writer, getting to the heart of a matter in touching ways.

I've read three so far and I just have a feeling, that all his books are so out of the ordinary. This story is so captivating and interesting and my favorite so far.

I mean seriously, the woman is called to the hospital to see the son she's never met, goes home to clean house and then joins him to crawl on the side of the freeway before bringing him home to make some eggs?

Loneliness and the often unexpected connections between people echo throughout Douglas Couplands works, but they come to the forefront in Eleanor Rigby. One reason I enjoy Couplands novels so much is that his characters always feel like people. And it comes with a challenge, because of course fiction isnt real life, and so one must balance the realistic dialogue with the needs of the story. Its this ability to strike an equilibrium between the craziness of real life and the need for fiction to be believable that makes Coupland so compelling for me. Jeremys reappearance in Lizs life comes with a fatal complication: multiple sclerosis (MS). Liz accepts Jeremys reorganization of her life with equanimity. People experience loss and sadness and death, but by the end of the book, something has changed for the better. Couplands novels are sneaky reminders that its never too late for hope, not even after an apocalypse, or peak oil, or the return of ones twenty-year-old son. But Im sure he had his reasons, not the least of which is the need to rectify Lizs loneliness, which has returned since Jeremys death. I suppose this hasnt been a review of Eleanor Rigby so much as a kind of rumination on my Coupland fandom. Mostly, though, I think Eleanor Rigby crystallized some of my conflicting thoughts and attitudes towards Coupland.

Douglas Coupland is one of those authors I think Im supposed to really like, but with whom Ive never quite clicked. All the hype on Couplands work tells me we should be literary BFFs. But here we are, with 2004s Eleanor Rigby being only the third of his books Ive read in twenty years. Liz Dunn, the books protagonist, suffers from the kind of loneliness that should have resonated with me in a big way. Ive written elsewhere in these reviews about struggling with anxiety and depression throughout much of my life, and there was a time in my late 20s and early 30s when I felt a sort of unrelenting loneliness, even though I had good friends and a satisfying career. The really remarkable thing is how accurately Coupland via Liz pins down that specific feeling: "One of my big problems is time sickness. The brutal thing about time sickness is that naming it is no cure." I know that feeling exactly, the constant looking back and looking forward and dwelling on the present and being dissatisfied with all of it. The fact that I found myself willingly entertaining these plot contortions (which also include a meteorite crash, Jeremys occasional bouts with prophetic visions, and flashbacks to Lizs days in Italy) is a credit to the thoughtful way Coupland balances humor and pathos, and the sensitivity he pays to each of his characters even Lizs diminutive boss Liam (aka, The Dwarf to Whom I Report). And because I dont remember them fondly, Lizs struggles carry perhaps just a bit too much verisimilitude for comfort, even though I found much in the book to otherwise enjoy.

But with each passing book of his I've read, I've enjoyed them less and less. Initially, Coupland's novels seem witty, irreverent and somehow holding a deeper meaning in amongst the pseudo spiritual Armageddon scenarios he's been selling for years. Reading multiple Coupland books erodes any sense of weight you initially applied to his thoughts. Normally (I say normally, I mean every time) Coupland novels tend to weave their way to a bit of a non-ending. If you choose to read a book by Coupland, don't choose this one.

In 1965 his family moved to Vancouver, Canada, where he continues to live and work.