Book Review: Everything Is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray

Format: Paperback
Release Date: February 4th, 2021
Age: Adult
Genre: Contemporary

Rating: 2/5 Stars

I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I would. If I’m honest, parts of it were downright messy, and it couldn’t seem to decide what genre it wanted to slot into it. I’m all for blending genres, but it’s done in such a clumsy way here I’m not even sure if that’s what the author was going for.

After the disappearance of her best friend and boyfriend, Amy started a collection. She fills her house with precious things that won’t leave her; empty wine bottles, china birds, and pots in her garden. Things change, however, when a new family move in next door, and Amy discovers mysterious clues that might just tell her more about what happened to the most important people in her life.

I kind of expected there to be a little bit more to the underlying mystery, but the resolution to it feels a touched forced in at the end and there’s little about the clues that actually reveals what’s happened. Most of the actual characters don’t feel fully realised, largely leaning on a few stereotypes. Nina is an Evil Stepmother, who doesn’t like kids. In contrast to Amy, who is practically perfect with them in every way, without even trying. But, to be fair, there’s no excuse for the way Nina treated the boys, but it feels like her partner gets absolved of so much blame when he rushed into living together without considering the difficulties for both Nina and the boys. The boys are really cute, and the way the relationship developed between them and Amy was sweet, but Nina felt like such a stock character. She gets frustrated a lot at Amy, and for a small amount of it I don’t blame her, when the way the scenes are set up, she must feel like she’s interrupting someone else’s family when she walks in. Richard doesn’t actually seem interested in trying to foster a relationship between his girlfriend and his two very young children, and Nina tries to wrestle control in the completely wrong way.

Still, I think I preferred the present-day scenes more, though there were still moments here that annoyed me a touch. Liam – a guy Amy works with – is overly, unprofessional persistent in his pursuit of her, and it felt really unnatural, not to mention a lot of his inappropriately asking her out happens over Teams. Which…no? Who doesn’t know nowadays you don’t use company software for personal communications that include harassment of a colleague? There’s a ‘twist’ involving him which almost felt forced in, like there had to be a reason for him being so ruthless in pressuring Amy, and to be honest, the reason he comes across like that doesn’t really match up with how he acts?

Lastly, Tim. The love of Amy’s life, who disappears eleven years before the novel starts. Amy doesn’t know where he went, but the prevailing theory is Tim ran off with her best friend, Chantel. Very sad. We see Tim through flashbacks, with chapters alternating between present day and the past. And Tim…does not come across well. Half the time I found myself feeling like Amy dodged a bullet – I think Ray tried to make him come across as loveable, but it doesn’t work. Most of the time we see him, he’s in a nameless (which just feels a bit lazy) band, doing nothing useful, calling out sick to work because he’s hungover, complaining about work, high, and only tidying/cleaning when Amy grows clearly frustrated with the absolute mess around the place. Almost every slightly objective view we get indicates this band might be quite shit, and let’s face it, who among us didn’t know someone in a band back in the early-to-late 00s? Yet Amy hinges her whole life on Tim, giving up her own dreams to support him and constantly telling him “oh, the band will make it! You’re amazing! You’re so talented!” Blegh. Tim is a shit boyfriend, Chantel – for the most part – is a shit friend, and it all gets so incredibly frustrating when you see them, as they are really the reason Amy put her life on hold.

Overall, the characters in this book feel a little overdone, it’s really hard to tell what ages they’re supposed to be in the flashback chapters, and the moments I found frustrating just about outweighed the moments I didn’t. Some people will love this book, but it really depends how much poor characterisation you’re willing to overlook.

Reading Challenge
2023 Tarot Reading Challenge
Prompt: The Emperor – book featuring a strong family unit
Progress: 5/164 Completed

Netflix Movies & TV Shows
Prompt: To the Bone – MC struggles with their mental/physical health  
Progress: 3/24 Completed


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