We witness different events in Eleanor’s life.
Mr Golan commits suicide, and Elly learns that what he told her about the numbers on his arm was a lie. His sister tells her that he was never in a prison camp, and he simply draw those numbers himself. I have no idea why he lied. Maybe it was to keep Elly interested. I still don’t know what happened with the man and Elly.
Then Elly meets a new girl in her school, a girl who will be her best friend. Her name is Jenny Penny, and she is also quite peculiar. She lives in the same street as Elly with her mother, and she tells Elly that her dad ran away when she was born, and her mother has many boyfriends. It is clear that Mrs Penny is not an ordinary mother, and we can see her shortcomings.
During this time there is a crisis in the family when her mother finds a lump in her breast and had to go away to hospital. Elly and her brother Joe are looked after by their aunt Nancy, who is their father’s younger sister. We get to know that Nancy is an actress and a lesbian. Joe tells Elly that their aunt Nancy fell in love with their mother when they met, but when Nancy realized that this was a woman who wouldn’t be hers, she decided that she would be for her brother, so it was her who did her utmost to bring Kate and Alfie together. After her time at hospital Kate comes back with good news; the lump in her breast was benign, and she will live.
There is something Elly also discovers. One day she slides into the shed to find her brother Joe and his friend Charlie naked and in a compromising position. Elly is not so shocked because she had seen some photographs of men and women doing the same in a magazine. Joe and Charlie go to see her, and she promises not to tell. From the beginning Elly has always said that her brother was different, and there were subtle references to his inclination, for example, him putting on their mother’s lipstick at night.
Then her father wins the pools, and the family decide to keep that a secret. Then Alfie buys a luxurious Mercedes, which Kate hates, saying that the car was not hers. She gives him an ultimatum: either the car goes or she will. Kate goes for eight days and Elly wonders whether her parents will divorce. When Kate returns, Alfie finally relents and the car is never seen again.
This book is quite different. There is not really a central plot, just a collection of moments in this family seen and analysed by this little girl. There are parts that I don’t get like the part with Mr Golan, which I still don’t know what happened for real, and there is a section in which Mrs Penny takes Elly and Jenny to the funeral of a baby. Was that the child that played Jesus in the school nativity play and ended up dead? That part was quite bizarre.