About the book
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?
I was really happy when the publicist for Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine contacted me to ask if I’d like a review copy as I’d seen the book mentioned quite a lot on social media and was really keen to read it.
Eleanor Oliphant is a brilliant character. She is very stuck in her ways, and at first, seems quite abrasive. She is in her thirties but dresses and behaves like someone much older. Very soon it starts to become apparent that Eleanor has had a very difficult childhood and is just trying to cope with life as best she can. I felt like she was very enmeshed in how her mother had treated her when she was young and that she is talking in her mother’s voice and has adopted all her mother’s beliefs and attitudes to people and life. It broke my heart to see how much Eleanor, whilst maintaining that she was completely fine, was drinking vodka to get through the weekends on her own and the loneliness just emanated from her. I very quickly realised that Eleanor actually wasn’t okay and that she longs to have the same things that everyone else wants.
‘I have always taken great pride in managing life alone. I’m a sole survivor – I’m Eleanor Oliphant. I don’t need anyone else – there’s no big hole in my life, no missing part of my own particular puzzle. I’m a self-contained entity. That’s what I’ve always told myself at any rate’.
Eleanor’s loneliness really comes through when she goes to see a local band with one of her colleagues from work, and she immediately realises that the lead singer of this band is the man for her. Her attempts to get to know more about him make her seem very obsessive but I really believed that she just has never had anyone to learn from when it comes to meeting a potential partner. Eleanor has never even had a friend, she grew up in care and no one has ever shown her true kindness so how could she know how to approach making a friend or forming a relationship.
Eleanor does have such resilience in life though and I really admired how she didn’t let what people said about her get to her. She sometimes overhears colleagues laughing at her but she just takes it in her stride. It’s sad that she doesn’t seem to know that it doesn’t have to be that way, but also I really respect how she could just let things go. Eleanor’s thought processes as she finds her way through life are very amusing at times.
If I’m ever unsure as to the correct course of action, I’ll think, ‘What would a ferret do?’ or, ‘How would a salamander respond to this situation?’ Invariably, I find the right answer.
I loved seeing how Eleanor began to find her way in the world as she finds herself in a situation with another colleague, Raymond, when they end up helping an elderly man who falls in the street in front of them. Raymond is such a lovely man and seemed to see through Eleanor’s abrasiveness and he takes her under his wing. It was wonderful to see Eleanor beginning to understand how friendship works, and she starts to blossom. Eleanor’s manner in replying to a message from Raymond about going out for lunch shows how she is finding her way in this new situation of having a friend.
‘That would be fine. Thank you’. Daringly, I didn’t put my name, because I realised he’d know it was from me.
The book then moves on to the bad days where we start to find out what happened in Eleanor’s past to make her how she is. This section of the book was really hard to read because I’d formed such a soft spot for her so to find out what she had lived through was heartbreaking. Her problem with alcohol is also much more apparent as a real problem, and seeing the level of desperation and distress in Eleanor made me want to reach through the pages to try and help her.
Eleanor is a truly memorable character, she’s not someone I’ll forget in a hurry. This is a brilliant novel, I savoured every minute of reading it and it’s one I will keep and re-read in the future. I actually feel genuinely quite bereft at having to leave Eleanor behind now I’ve finished the book.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a tender and moving look at loneliness, at how it is to be given a chance and what it is to find a friend having had a lifetime of just getting through the days. A beautiful novel that I highly recommend.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is out now!
I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Gail Honeyman wrote her debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, while working a full time job, and it was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress. She has also been awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award 2014, and was longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines, and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. Gail lives in Glasgow.
(Author photo and bio taken from Goodreads)