REVIEW: The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard

First person narrative continues to be a big hit, falling in love with the characters is one advantage of this style.

Reviewers recommend this novel for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and while I enjoyed that novel, I think Elvira Carr touched my heart even more.

First person narrative can be so effective. This novel is a story about a young woman whose life is changed when her mother becomes unwell.

“Elvira Carr is 27 years old, neuro-atypical, and has never lived alone. But her father – who she suspects was in the secret service – is dead, and her mother has a stroke and is taken into care, Elvira suddenly finds herself home alone.”

The way Elvira begins to manage her life- though she doesn’t know how, nor has ever been shown,- is very inspirational. Central to the novel is the mystery of who her father and mother really are. It has you gripped, although at times I worried that we the reader, seemed like the “normaltypical” people around her who know the truth of what’s going and don’t tell her. Elvira has not been given the tools or information to understand. At times, I needed to lay the book aside to absorb the sadness of her experience.

One of the achievements of this novel is to write so well about Autism Spectrum Conditions. Frances Maynard, I believe, works with adults on the Spectrum and with learning disabilities. For me her portrayal felt very truthful. As a parent of a child on the Spectrum, I actually felt this book would be great as an educational tool for both people in my position and in a wider community. Although the topic meant I felt sadness and worry that I might not equip my own son (which by the way is a daily fear). I would hope that those represented in the novel would feel Maynard has been thoughtful and loving in her creation of Elvira.

The rules Elvira develops to live by show how communication with others can be unclear for her (and everyone at times). It’s frustrating at times to see Sylvia seem to belittle her work, by telling her what she has done wrong she is also breaking the rules around diplomacy and kindness. As such Sylvia acts as a good foil. Her neighbours and the cast of characters who come into her life are really well-drawn and we see a group grow and develop around her which is very heart-warming.

The only thing I will say I didn’t like as much is that there are moments in this novel where Elvira is the victim of abuse and this hateful behaviour is very difficult to read. That someone can be so vulnerable to bullying and assault makes the fact she is teaching herself these rules to live by imperative. But it will also hit any reader hard, I think. The positive is that by the end, the novel gives a model for how a neurodiverse community can be built. And we are left very hopeful for her future.

The fact that this novel does

Here is a list of some other novels that feature #neurodiversity or difference:

  1. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, Don Tillman can make a plan for anything (I still want a copy of his optimum food plan) but can he plan how to get the perfect girlfriend?
  2. The Cactus by Sarah Haywood: Although the blurb only describes her as “quirky” Susan Green certainly has a level of independence and lives a certain way. I felt her difference was important to the novel. There’s a great in depth review of the novel On Debbish.Com which talks about Susan’s appeal.
  3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is another novel about a woman who likes to separate herself from others, there is a tragic tale at the heart of the story, but like these others she certainly thinks differently from those around her.

If you know any other book which depicts neurodiversity positively, I would be very interested to read it. Let me know!

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