All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Mimi – Lucy Ellmann

on April 26, 2013

Lucy Ellmann
Bloomsbury Circus
2013, 352p
Copy courtesy of Bloomsbury ANZ

Harrison Hanafan is an esteemed plastic surgeon in New York. On Christmas Eve he slips on a patch of ice and is helped up by a strange woman who then hails him a cab – a seemingly impossible feat at such a time. Having injured his ankle, Harrison takes some time off work and spends his days getting to know a stray cat – they have adopted each other and the cat becomes a core part of Harrison’s life.

Harrison’s high school asks him, as an esteemed allumni, to make a speech at their graduation ceremony and petrified of public speaking, Harrison seeks assistance from someone to cope with his fear – and that someone turns out to be Mimi, none other than the colourful woman who helped him up when he slipped on the ice.

Mimi turns Harrison’s calm, ordered world upside down. The man who orders his dvd collection (by genre and then alphabetically) is spun into a new world by Mimi, who has him sneaking into museums with the intention of stealing back a family heirloom quilt and listening spellbound as she extols her particular feminist views. Mimi becomes Harrison’s world and he is enraptured by her and by their perfectly easy relationship until the ex-girlfriend that will not go away inserts herself into the picture in the most inconvenient of ways.

Mimi is a bit of an interesting book, especially to try and review. The cover is moody and a bit evocative. I think I expected a bit of a passionate, star crossed lovers type of deal, or maybe Harrison’s attempt to hunt down the quirky woman who helped him after he fell. But it’s not either of those things. Actually Harrison doesn’t give Mimi barely another thought after their first meeting until he’s going to meet a coach to help him gain confidence to speak and he sees her again some time later. Mimi also turns out to be the person he’s meeting.

Mimi has a lot of opinions and this is a very feminist novel. I’m just not sure whether or not it works in the way in which it’s been delivered. Harrison is buttoned up, a plastic surgeon who started out with ideals of helping those burned in accidents, house fires  etc but these days he finds himself augmenting breasts that have nothing wrong with them. He wants to quit his job but he also appreciates the financial security it gives him. He seems to work pretty much whenever he pleases and I can’t say I’ve ever known anyone to take 4 weeks off work for a sprained ankle before! I’ve sprained mine twice and it only bought me 2 days off school! He also cultivates a List of Melancholy Things (things that he finds depressing) such as Walmart, etc and this seems to gel with Mimi’s tendency to express an opinion on pretty much everything.

I did like the character of Harrison and the way in which he observes things. He seems a bit repressed and sarcastic and he spends an awful lot of time running down (and away from) his nightmare of an ex-girlfriend Gertrude, who just seems too incredibly horrific to be in any way believable. Harrison has a close relationship with his sister Bee, an artist who is currently living in England. I really liked Harrison and Bee’s interactions (which all take place on the phone, or are told in a flashback fashion from their childhoods, particularly later on in the book). Early on the book looked promising and I thought I was really going to settle in but unfortunately, the second half really stretched my ability to be invested in these characters and believe in them.

Mimi’s feminist rantings were kind of amusing when they were sprinkled throughout the narrative in little tidbits but the more I got into the story, the more they began to take over the entire narrative as indeed they took over Harrison’s way of thinking and his life as well. Mimi has no problem converting Harrison to her philosophies – she does this so incredibly swiftly that it definitely feels forced. This is carried even further with the speech Harrison gives at his former high school, which starts off in a somewhat funny fashion but then just goes too far and begins to descend into the ravings of a madman. It goes on for an incredibly long time and although I found parts of it rather clever overall it was just…too much.

I think Mimi could’ve been really lovely and quirky (and indeed some people may still find it so, or find it very stirring) but although I quite enjoyed reading the first half, I definitely found that the second half was not for me. I liked exploring more about Harrison and I liked him and Mimi together but there were times when Mimi felt too over-zealous and pushy and pitting her against a character like Gertrude, who had no actual merit (why was she even still in Harrison’s life? I couldn’t even come up with a scenario in which someone would keep in contact with someone like her, at all) as a character and seemed to serve only as a very cliche antagonist just did the book no justice. Lucy Ellmann seems to be a very successful novelist and is highly praised but I don’t think this was the best place for me to begin to explore her work.


Book #102 of 2013


2 responses to “Mimi – Lucy Ellmann

  1. I actually really enjoyed this book. I admit that it did lose its way toward the end a little but I laughed a lot and I loved all the quirky lists. See my review here:

  2. […] reviews of Mimi: The Telegraph; The Guardian; Emily’s Tea Leaves; All The Books I Can Read; Sam Still […]

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