Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock

Title: My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir
Author: Noelle Hancock

Genre: Non-Fiction (Memoir / Contemporary / New York City / Self Discovery)
Publisher/Publication Date: Ecco (6/7/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked enormously!
Did I finish?: Yes -- in a day or so!
One-sentence summary: A laid-off blogger spends a year inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt, confronting the things that she fears.

Do I like the cover?: Yes, it's adorable and quirky and doesn't take itself too seriously -- much like the tone of this book!

First line: I was lying on a beach in Aruba, mulling a third piña colada, when I received a phone call announcing I'd been laid off from my job.

Did... I love the blending of Eleanor's life with Hancock's?: YES.  Hancock wasn't just inspired by a quote of Eleanor's but found parallels in her life and Roosevelt's and that made this memoir meatier and more enjoyable.

Did... this book inspire me to contemplate my own fears?: YES. And not just the big things, like sea monsters and tripping down stairs to my death, but the small things too, like correcting people when they mispronounce my name. (I'm terrible at that; I spent a summer at a temp job answering to 'Andrea' because I didn't have the courage to correct anyone!)

Did... I love the recommended reading list Hancock included at the end?: YES.  Short, but to the point -- books about Eleanor that she used.  I've added them to my ever-growing TBR.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for sure -- entertaining and funny -- and a bit inspiring!  I think this would be another great book club selection or one to share among friends.

Why did I get this book?: I'm an Eleanor Roosevelt fangirl.

Review: I confess right now that I was a bit dubious when I started this memoir, apprehensive that I -- not much of a celebrity gossip fan -- wouldn't enjoy what this former celebrity blogger had to say or care about her year of transformation.

Boy, was I wrong.

By page five I was ready to like Hancock and by page twenty or so, was totally charmed by her. Erroneously I had mentally decided Hancock's Manhattan-centered world and celebrity blogging meant one thing, but in reality, she was like any of my friends: overly dedicated to work, sociable but anti-social, insecure, apprehensive, and a little bit paralyzed by 'what now?'.

Frankly, I wanted her to be my friend.

Actually, one of the aspects of Hancock's book that stood out to me was her small coterie of loyal friends, who featured in her adventures as much as she did. I so appreciated that Hancock's journey allowed for others to participate and that in sharing the story with us, she highlighted those relationships and connections.  I also enjoyed Hancock's sense of humor: she's wry and sarcastic (without being cutting) with a lovely sense of introspection that allows for reflection that felt meaningful rather than self-absorbed.

Even though this seems a bit like a trendy project-a-year memoir, I found this book to be insightful, charming and inviting.  As someone who is greatly inspired by women from history, I adored Hancock's premise and found it to be deeper than a mere gimmick.  I'm a few years past 30 but I feel some of the same apprehensions about who I am and where my life is heading, and Hancock's book gave me ideas for being bolder and braver as well as some comfort that I'm not alone in my feelings.  A real delight to read!


  1. This book looks fantastic! I like a memoir that doesn't take itself too seriously, so I will be adding this to my list. Thanks Audra!

  2. @Picky: It really has the feel of hanging out with a girlfriend, in the best way, and I enjoyed the relational tone and the grounded-ness of Hancock.

  3. What a great idea for a memoir! It may be trendy, but I applaud anyone that uses Eleanor Roosevelt as their inspiration. I love that you describe the book as quirky...sounds excellent!

  4. You had me at, "she was like any of my friends: overly dedicated to work, sociable but anti-social, insecure, apprehensive, and a little bit paralyzed by 'what now?'" That's me!

    And what great friends she had to participate in her adventures! Those are real friends. I'm sure they helped each other more than they know.

    Fabulous review! Thanks for being on the tour!

  5. @Jenna: Exactly! Hancock marries, too, bits from Eleanor's life with her own (Eleanor's fear of water comes up when Hancock describes swimming with sharks, for example) and it's really engaging and fun. This was really a summertime memoir -- I felt good at the end!

  6. I have been reading a lot of great reviews of this book all over, and think it sounds perfectly quirky and fun. I imagine that it would be a prefect book for bloggers as well, as we can probably all relate to Hancock in some ways. Great review! I must pick this one up!

  7. @Trish: My favorite books are those that give me a place to see myself and this one really resonated -- and yes, her friends are great friends (they went to trapeze school with her, among the other adventures!).

    @Heather: I'd love to hear what you think of this if you get a chance to read it. I was so pleased by the mix of honesty and humor in this book!

  8. Sounds weird, perhaps amusing, but for, dunno. Since I do not know anything about E.R either

  9. Thanks for this review, Audra. I hadn't heard of this book, but have always wanted to read more about Eleanor Roosevelt. I'll definitely look for this one!

  10. I had the same reaction when I started reading it -- what insights could a celebrity blogger provide? I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed the book, I now want to read more about Eleanor Roosevelt's life.

    Great review.

  11. I really never expected to find this book interesting, but you've changed my mind about that! I'll keep this one in mind. I'm a little over 30, too, and I keep asking myself what I want to be when I grow up. LOL

  12. This sounds wonderful. I like that it seems have risen above a cliched premise and really delivered!