Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?
So, now I am sure I have achieved my goal of being the last English-speaking person in the western world to read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I thought it was about time I got round to it and posted a review. The only problem is, since every other book blogger on the face of the planet has already read and reviewed this book, ad infinitum, what could I possibly have to say that hasn’t been said already?
I have to admit I was little concerned going in, as the book has had such hype that I didn’t believe it could possibly live up to my expectations. At the same time, I have read more and more reviews recently by people who have abandoned the book at an early stage, having been unable to get on with the main character at all. This included my own mother, although she and I have very different tastes and opinions on most things anyway.
I needn’t have worried. I absolutely loved every page of this book. I thought the character of Eleanor was unique and intelligent and really insightful and the whole story so well-drawn from beginning to end that I could not help but get drawn in to her world and life. What a sad and touching and lonely life she has had, until her friendship with Raymond changes everything for her. My heart is bruised from how much this story pummelled it with wave after wave of emotional wrenching. It has been a long time since it has had such a workout.
I guess I can understand how some people can find Eleanor jarring, she does not represent the social norm, but that is the entire point. This is the reason she is so isolated and uncomfortable with her peers. The discomfort that the reader might feel is illustration of why people like Eleanor become so socially isolated and lonely, but if we, as the reader and as people in society, push past this, we find the real person underneath who just longs to belong and is well worth knowing and Raymond is the model of what we should be. Warm, tolerant and understanding, I just loved him, although he himself might not be seen by society on first glance as the perfect specimen.
When I am reading, I tend to make little notes of pages where a particular line or paragraph has caught my eye as something that has touched or spoken to me or is worth remembering. I don’t think I have made as many notes on a book of parts I wanted to revisit as I did on this book. It was like the author was speaking directly to me, or even speaking my own thoughts at times. The final paragraph of Chapter 8. Halfway down page 106. The penultimate paragraph of page 174. The third paragraph of page 195. The top of page 238. A small phrase three-quarters of the way down page 286. The phrase on page 305, “Yellow tights did not, I noticed, flatter a sporty calf.’ All of these held small phrases or images that were joyful or moving or resonant or delightful to me. You will all have your own favourites, I’m sure. Some of it made me cry. Some of squeezed my chest so tight I grew short of breath. Some of it was just too painfully….truthful.
This book is marvellous. It, and Eleanor, are truly worthy of every minute you invest in reading it, and re-reading it will I am sure be equally beneficial. Anyone who does not persevere and try to find some bond with the character is missing out. A profoundly honest book that feels like it was written just for me.
If there is any chance at all that you haven’t got a copy of this book, you can buy it here.
About the Author
Gail Honeyman’s debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, won the Costa First Novel Award 2017, and has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliott Prize.
As a work in progress, it was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. Since publication, translation rights have sold to over thirty territories worldwide, Reese Witherspoon has optioned it for film and it was chosen as one of the Observer’s Debuts of the Year for 2017. Gail was also awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award in 2014, and has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.
Gail lives in Glasgow.
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