#35 “Elianne” by Judy Nunn

  1. Goose – Dawn O’Porter
  2. Murder in Mississippi – John Safran
  3. Elianne – Judy Nunn
  4. Divergent – Veronica Roth
  5. Insurgent – Veronica Roth
  6. Allegiant – Veronica Roth
  7. The Messenger – Markus Zusak
  8. Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman
  9. The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons
  10. NOS4R2 – Joe Hill
  11. Hades – Candice Fox
  12. Eden – Candice Fox
  13. Last Night at Chateau Marmont – Lauren Weisberger
  14. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  15. The Maze Runner – James Dashner
  16. The Scorch Trials – James Dashner
  17. The Death Cure – James Dashner
  18. A Long Way Down – Nick Hornby
  19. More Than This – Patrick Ness
  20. Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead – Rebecca James
  21. Solitaire – Alice Oseman
  22. Trouble – Non Pratt
  23. The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
  24. The Bane Chronicles  – Cassandra Clare et al
  25. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

What’s this? Bec’s got just the cover up as her picture of Elianne? What is this madness? Well, I had an awesome picture of the book with my gorgeous Belle bookmark from craftedvan on top, which kind of looked like Belle was actually a part of the Elianne estate. But because our wifi is dodgy out here, I lost the picture and so I have to settle with the original cover. Not such a bad consolation, really, since the cover is gorgeous.

Anyway, Elianne explores  a whole POV that I haven’t experienced in a long, long time. Everyone’s heard of first and third person, yeah? But third person can be broken down into two further categories: third person limited and third person omniscient. Third person limited is something we’re all very familiar with. The whole Harry Potter series was written in third person limited. Although we sometimes got alternate POVs, our main lens was predominantly Harry.
Elianne was written in third person omniscient. We had a main character, Kate Durham, but we knew what each of the characters was thinking in any given scene. So the narrator is all-knowing, rather than limited to the one character. And because we don’t come across third person omniscient very often, it took a while to get into the swing of the story. I liked the way Elianne was told, though. It was refreshing.

Elianne was a wonderfully Australian story, set in North Queensland and spanning almost a century. We follow the Durham family during the tumultuous 1960s and early 1970s as well as learning about the famous matriarch and patriarch of the Durham clan: Grandmother Ellie and Big Jim. The story flips between present (well the characters’ present) and past with Grandmother Ellie’s diaries acting as the bridge between the two time periods.

The premise of Elianne is relatively simple, despite the way it’s told. How does an exceptionally proud and revered family adapt to a period of dramatic change? The results of this question, however, give the reader a wonderfully diverse view of Australia during the 60s and 70s. The old generation and the new both trying to adapt to conscription, the end of imported labour, and the beginning of multiculturalism.
Nunn did a beautiful job navigating all of the characters, without any of them seeming flat or unformed. However, sometimes the dialogue felt a little stilted. Especially when it was obvious that Nunn was just using the characters as mouthpieces to explain various historical aspects of the time to the reader. It’s difficult to make the past feel present, but there has to be a better way to do it than having characters explain their own situations to each other.

Characterisation in Elianne is tough to define. Some writers create characters that you get emotionally attached to and others create characters that you could swear actually existed. Nunn falls into the latter category. Although I didn’t really get attached to the characters, I kept reading because I felt as though these were real living and breathing people that I was reading about.

Despite the believability of the characters, there were some aspects of the story that I found unbelievable. Nothing big or noteworthy but every once in a while I found myself mentally scoffing a “yeah, right” in the direction of the page.

My favourite part of Elianne was how Nunn demonstrated the undoing of the big macho patriarchs of each generation and having their wives shine through after the men had come unstuck. It was a not-so-subtle dig at both the old ways and the supposed superiority of men in society. But not just that either. Elianne explored the ways in which society defines masculinity and femininity. Nunn makes social commentary on the here and now while also commenting on the social issues of old. More than anything, Elianne is an exploration of the ridiculousness of social norms and assumptions. It’s really quite an intellectual experience, all wrapped up in something that is simply, but beautifully, Australian.

★★★★

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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2 Responses to #35 “Elianne” by Judy Nunn

  1. Deborah says:

    Great review Bec! Thanks for sharing.

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