Writer’s Wednesday: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (+ First Love)
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is really hard to describe. For a long time I didn’t pick up, because all the descriptions I read made it sound very simple and for a much younger audience. If it wasn’t because people kept recommending it and I saw it was on sale on Amazon (currently $2.54 for the Kindle edition), I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. Once I did however, I finished it in 24 hours.
…and now I am stuck trying to describe it in a way that won’t put people off reading it. From the back cover:
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.
That’s pretty accurate. Eleanor & Park is about innocence. First love. Gender roles. Domestic violence. Poverty. Race. Class. And truth be told it is simple, and so incredibly complex at the same time. As it should be, because first love often is simple – and so incredibly complex at the same time.
The descriptions of when they first hold hands and touch each other are spot-on and somehow manages to catch the electricity of even touching the hand of your first love.
Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.
How could it be possible that there were that many nerve endings all in one place? And were they always there, or did they just flip on whenever they felt like it? Because, if they were always there, how did she manage to turn doorknobs without fainting?
(Besides they didn’t just hold hands. Park touched her hands like they were something rare and precious, like her fingers were intimately connected to the rest of her body. Which , of course, they were. It was hard to explain. He made her feel like more than the sum of her parts.)
One short quote really hit home for me:
The me that’s me right now is yours. Always.
It very poignantly describes something that I have never been able to put into words, but have always felt to be true; after ending a relationship a part of me, the ‘me’ that I was, when we first met and fell in love would continue to love and belong to that person. As we grow and change a relationship might not be right for us anymore – or at least it might need to take a different shape going forward, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. That it wasn’t important. Or that those feelings weren’t real.
Often these days we are encouraged to move on, leave the past behind and “learn from the mistakes”. But just because a relationship doesn’t last, doesn’t mean that it was a mistake. It doesn’t mean that it wasn’t exactly what we needed in that moment. To me, there’s nothing shameful about recognizing that these people played an important role in shaping who we are today, and that yes, a part of you will always love them and belong to them. And that’s okay.
- Posted in: Favourites ♦ Relationships ♦ Uniquely You ♦ Writer's Wednesday
- Tagged: 1980's, book review, books, Domestic violence, Eleanor & Park, Eleanor and Park, first love, gender roles, gender stereotypes, poverty, quotes, race, Rainbow Rowell, relationships, romance, writer's wednesday, writing, Young adult