Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
By Gail Honeyman
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 existence. Except, sometimes, everything…
I was a little apprehensive when I started this book as it had been recommended to me numerous amounts of times, I have seen a lot of it on the internet, heard that it was “the best book ever” and I thought…hmmm how over hyped is this? Well I spoke too soon didn’t I… honestly this has been my favourite read of 2018 (so far) and I have now joined onto the “I LOVE ELEANOR OLIPHANT” bandwagon. Honestly if you don’t read the rest of my review… read just this…. You must buy this book and read it!
I adored every page of this novel, I was hooked right from the start and read it all in just one sitting. A book that follows the themes of loneliness, kindness and friendship; a fantastic twist at the end and brilliant characters, the tale of Eleanor Oliphant was heartwarming, funny and also sad. And like I always say, if a book makes you feel many emotions it’s a good book!
The character of Eleanor Oliphant reminded me a lot of Ove in Fredrik Backman’s ‘A Man Called Ove’. Both central characters are strong yet fragile, stubborn and set in their ways and both their lives are turned around by the kindness of others. I saw a lot of similarities between both novels, which I think was a great thing not a bad thing. I think in book world Ove and Eleanor would be great friends!
Eleanor is misunderstood, her colleagues mock her, she has no family (apart from Mummy) or any friends, she is silently judged by the shop keeper where she obtains her vodka supply, her life seems sad and depressing but she says she is just “fine”. I loved the tone of voice Honeyman gave Eleannor she was such a likeable character, even though she was intelligent her naivety to life in general was hilarious, I love a weird or odd character and Eleanor ticks all the boxes for me, she is definitely one of my favourite fictional characters.
I found the theme of loneliness very powerful, poignant and sad. Especially when I found out how Honeyman found her inspiration for the story, she read a newspaper article about loneliness and it included an interview with a young professional who said she would often leave work on a Friday and not speak to another human being until she returned to work on a Monday morning. Which is incredibly sad, I never thought that 30 year old women would suffer from loneliness, I always assumed that quite often older people were lonely not young, vibrant, busy hardworking 30 year old women. There is a quote in the book I would like to sum this bit up with, Eleanor says “If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person in two consecutive days. FINE is what you say”. A very powerful part in the book, and it really resonated with me. I wondered how many times un my life I say I’M FINE when I’m really not… then I thought about people around me, friends, family, co-workers telling me they are just “FINE”…but maybe sometimes they aren’t. We just take these words for granted and really do assume FINE does mean FINE… and we really shouldn’t.
The other theme Honeyman wanted people to take away from this novel was ‘Kindness’ and how an act of kindness no matter how small could change someones life. The day Eleanor helped Sammy to get to the hospital was a pivotal moment in the novel and from there on her life started changing for the better; because she helped him she became friends with a co-worker Raymond and Sammy’s family also gave her acts of kindness like her new haircut. I think in this busy world we live in these days we sometimes forget that a very small act of kindness can make someones day, week or even life and if you are kind to someone, kindness will be returned. This book reminded me of how important this is.
Gail Honeyman not only had fantastic character development, and a great story but she balanced the funny parts of the novel with the more serious, dark and sad parts. I think that balance was vital and I love how a book can make you laugh out loud but also make you shed a tear and be in a state of shock, Honeyman’s debut novel takes a traumatic and serious life event of the main character and turns it into a heartwarming funny masterpiece.
Eleanor Oliphant was fantastic from beginning to end. I was actually sad that it ended I could of read about Eleanor’s life for another 1000x pages, and I have a massive book hangover now that I finished it. For a debut novel I thought this was just brilliant and I really hope that Honeyman has other novels lined up to write as I adored her writing style and would love to read more from her. A dazzling debut and one I won’t forget in a hurry.
Have you read Eleanor Oliphant? What did you think of it? Get in touch I would love to know, thanks for reading. Katie x
This is another book that I have read from the British Book Awards Reading Challenge I have set myself. Click here to read all about it and see what books I have left to read before 14th of May!