Review of a Delightful Novelist
One of the best things about Billie Eilish’s novels is the clarity and simplicity with which she communicates. The clarity comes from her ability to describe the moments without resorting to a lot of color and detail.
At times, Eilish seems to write in a narrative voice, rather than a character voice. In that way, her style is very similar to that of Haruki Murakami, whose books I particularly enjoy. It’s worth noting that Murakami’s characters sometimes suffer from the same problem I have: they are characterized by a lot of detail without a lot of character.
My favourite thing about Billie Eilish’s books is the way she writes about motherhood. She portrays motherhood in such a loving and sensitive way that you almost want to be a mother, and perhaps even a grandmother or aunt. In this regard, her memoirs take on a new light, particularly in the short stories she wrote called “Blind”Her Mother’s Eyes.” Of course, there’s a reason why these stories are referred to as such: Eilish was very blind at a young age, and those descriptions ring true with me.
I also love that Eilish often gives us a look into the lives of women who are children or elderly, as those groups she’s most familiar with. In fact, she also has a connection to many of her characters through her own daughter, who sometimes becomes involved in these things. This continuity is interesting, considering she’s written so many different types of people in her novels.
That said, I also found the prose to be somewhat stilted at times, despite the lack of literary pretensions that one might associate with “The Book of Lost Things,” her short story collection. It seems to be something of a mystery to me why she does a lot of elaborate typefaces on each page, although I’m sure some people do appreciate it. However, there is an important distinction between what is acceptable for an author of short stories, and what is expected of a novelist.
Perhaps the lack of conventional writing style is a factor in my distaste for “The Book of Lost Things.” For one thing, the story takes place entirely in the present, which makes for a more comfortable reading experience. Nevertheless, I found it to be an uneventful story, except for the main character’s madness that really cluttered the plot and created some unnecessary drama.
As for the later books in this series, I enjoyed them as much as the first one. If anything, they just felt a little less “light and airy,” if you will. But, I also enjoyed the humorous stories in these later books and the way she relates them to the events of her previous books.
Recent titles include “Ladies First” and “The Grapevine” and there is no mistaking the elegance of her prose.