About the Author:
Gail Honeyman's debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, won the Costa First Novel Award 2017, and has been longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliott Prize. As a work in progress, it was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. Since publication, translation rights have sold to over thirty territories worldwide, Reese Witherspoon has optioned it for film and it was chosen as one of the Observer's Debuts of the Year for 2017. Gail was also awarded the Scottish Book Trust's Next Chapter Award in 2014, and has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4's Opening Lines and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. Gail lives in Glasgow.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Janey the secretary had got engaged to her latest Neanderthal, and there was a presentation for her that afternoon. I’d contributed seventy-eight pence to the collection. I only had coppers in my purse or else a five-pound note, and I certainly wasn’t going to put such an extravagant sum into the communal envelope to buy something unnecessary for someone I barely knew. I must have contributed hundreds of pounds over the years to all the leaving present, baby gifts and special birthdays, and what had I ever received in return? My own birthdays pass unremarked.
Whoever had chosen the engagement gift had selected wine glasses and a matching carafe. Such accoutrements are unnecessary when you drink vodka—I simply use my favourite mug. I purchased it in a charity shop some years ago, and it has a photograph of a moon-faced man on one side. He is wearing a brown leather blouson. Along the top, in strange yellow font, it says Top Gear. I don’t profess to understand this mug. It holds the perfect amount of vodka, however, thereby obviating the need for frequent refills.
Janey was planning a short engagement, she’d simpered, and so, of course, the inevitable collection for the wedding present would soon follow. Of all the compulsory financial contributions, that is the one that irks me most. Two people wander around John Lewis picking out lovely items for themselves, and then they make other people pay for them. It’s bare-faced effrontery. They choose things like plates, bowls and cutlery—I mean, what are they doing at the moment: shoveling food from packets into their mouths with their bare hands? I simply fail to see how the act of legally formalizing a human relationship necessitates friends, family and coworkers upgrading the contents of their kitchen for them.
I’ve never actually been to a wedding ceremony. I was invited to Loretta’s evening reception a couple of years ago, along with everyone else from the office. It was in a horrible hotel near the airport, and we organized a minibus to get there; I had to contribute to the cost of that, in addition to my bus fare into town and back. Guests were obliged to buy their own drinks all evening, which shocked me. Entertaining is not my area of expertise, I’ll admit that, but surely, if you are a host, you are responsible for ensuring that your guests are provided with a libation? That’s a basic principle of hospitality, in all societies and cultures, and has been since recorded time. In the event, I drank tap water—I rarely imbibe alcohol in public. I only really enjoy it when I’m alone, at home. They did at least serve tea and coffee later in the evening, free of charge; this was accompanied by poor-quality savory pastries and, bizarrely, slices of Christmas cake. For hours and hours, there was a disco, and terrible people danced in a terrible way to terrible music. I sat on my own and no one asked me to dance and I was absolutely fine with that.
The other guests did seem to be enjoying themselves, or at least I assume that to have been the case. They were shuffling on the dance floor, red-faced and drunk. Their shoes looked uncomfortable, and they were shouting the words of the songs into each other’s faces. I’ll never go to such an event again. It simply wasn’t worth it, just for a cup of tea and a slice of cake. The evening wasn’t completely wasted, however, because I managed to slip almost a dozen sausage rolls into my shopper, wrapped in serviettes, for later.
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