- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Posted March 8, 2009
Can a relationship be restored after a thirty year separation and despite family opposition? Ellie and Helen are going to try to find out.
Ellie and Helen are childhood friends who meet again at the funeral of Ellie's mother. When they were young they went beyond the bonds of friendship into sexual experimentation, but that ended when they were separated as children. Each went on to have a career, family and get divorced, now they meet again and find there is still an attraction. Trauma from Helen's childhood and doubts about her own sexuality make Ellie hesitant to reopen anything, but she can't seem to resist the temptation. As they try to establish a relationship though, shadows from the past can't be forgotten and threaten to separate them again.
One of the major themes in the book is abuse. Helen is abused routinely by her father when she is young and he terrifies Ellie whenever she is around him. He even breaks into her home more than once when her parents are away. Helen goes on to marry an emotionally abusive husband and produces at least two of four sons who she is afraid may beat her up if they find out about her relationship with Ellie. That is unfortunately a situation that often occurs in real life, but it makes the book very trying to read. It's never quite clear why Ellie would choose to be friends with Helen when they are younger except that they live on the same street. Not only is Ellie scared of the father, but Helen doesn't really treat her well much of the time either. As confusing as the attraction is when they are young, it's even more confusing when they are older. Although it's easy to grasp that Ellie would hope to rekindle something she once felt emotionally with Helen, the reader has to wonder why she would want to continue when they have to sneak around constantly and hide from possible violence from Helen's sons. Helen is almost a pathetic character as she is mistreated by her father and then her sons and is hardly appealing, so it's always puzzling what the attraction is for Ellie beyond the fact that the sex is apparently pretty good. The ending of the book is abrupt and doesn't ring true, although it does follow the normal pattern of the book. In the end, it's not really clear what it is that Ellie is supposed to be educated about because she doesn't appear to have learned much at all.
Calhoun chose an unusual style for this book. The chapters alternate between the past and the present, but also between past and present tense. The present chapters are all in the third person, even when the main character's actions are being described. "She takes him for a walk.before falling into bed, where she lies awake." That's Ellie thinking about herself. This gives the book an ungainly feel and makes the reading uneven which disrupts the flow of the story. The advantage of the style is that scenes from the past can be used to explain some of why Ellie is reacting a certain way in the present.
The Education of Ellie is a serious picture of the effects of abuse in more than one form; however, as a romance it plods. It's puzzling what Calhoun hoped to accomplish with this book.