A charming story of unlikely friendships – Looking for Eliza by Leaf Arbuthnot is just the right book you need to pick up now.
Ada is a widowed writer, navigating loneliness in Oxford after the death of her husband. She has no children. No grandchildren. She fears she is becoming peripheral, another invisible woman.
Eliza is a student at the university. She finds it difficult to form meaningful relationships after the estrangement of her mother and breakup with her girlfriend. It is easier, she thinks, to be alone.
When they meet through unlikely circumstances, bonding over Lapsang Souchong tea, the two start to find what they’re looking for in each other. But can they cast off their isolation for good?
It’s very cinematic in the way it’s done
This book is so modern – it could genuinely be happening down the road from you. The whole concept is great, and very well executed with a whole lot of feels.
I did find that not much happened in the first half of the book – there is lots of character building and setting the scene for the friendship. Despite this slow start, I still read 150 pages without realising I had, and enjoyed the pace of the second half of the book more.
I found the characters themselves great – very realistic in their emotions and way they think things through/ their perception. Ada portrays her way of dealing with grief very well, and Eliza sparks emotion with her isolation and mentally-abusive ex-girlfriend.
I loved the little twist which brought the two characters together and it’s an incredible contrast to your usual contemporary fiction, being entirely unexpected. It happens quite late in the book, making the ending feel a little rushed, but it’s very cinematic in the way it’s done, which I enjoy.
Each chapter either follows Ada or Eliza, with the occasional overlap when the characters meet. Being such contrasting figures, their tone is quite different, so easy to follow who’s who, and is not overwhelming with other characters to follow.
I do get the impression that this is slightly YA, especially with the messaging. Overall, an incredibly enjoyable read with a lovely, feel-good vibe.
I can’t wait to see more by this author – this is a great debut, and I really enjoyed Arbuthnot’s writing, so I’m eagerly awaiting the next book.
Looking for Eliza, Leaf Arbuthnot, RRP £14.99 (hardback); Book Depository
Genre: Fiction/ Contemporary