Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

04 July 2018

Days seem to rush by and I barely have time to slow down and smell the roses, so to speak, thus the lack of posts here, but I finished reading Gail Honeyman's book Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and I feel compelled to write about it.

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.
Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .
The only way to survive is to open your heart.
Despite the title of the book and what Eleanor Oliphant lets on, Eleanor is NOT fine. Empty, devoid of human touch and friendly interaction, follows a strict routine like clockwork that is almost mechanical, Eleanor's life feels lonely. Oh so lonely. But she is fine with that. At least that's what she leads herself to believe.
If someone asks 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 for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.
From the start of the novel you immediately get the sense that something bad has happened to Eleanor, but you don't really fully grasp the horror she went through until it is completely revealed in the end.

It's expected that this novel will make me cry, but it also made me laugh out loud a lot. I love dry humor and this book has plenty of that. Eleanor's naivete reminds you of how isolated she is but it is not presented in a mean way that you don't feel bad about laughing. She reminds me of another character I loved, Don Tillman of Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project, although this novel is a lot darker.

And the writing. The writing is so good. I can't believe it is Honeyman's first novel, and I am now a fan looking forward to her next books.

This book is pure joy, wonder, warmth, and kindness. This excerpt from The Guardian's review says it best:
Characters aren’t goodies, baddies or plot devices, they just feel like people. The overwhelming emotion is kindness. If you don’t cry the first time Eleanor goes to a hair salon and thanks the blowsy Laura for “making her shiny”, you haven’t a heart. This is a narrative full of quiet warmth and deep and unspoken sadness. It makes you want to throw a party and invite everyone you know and give them a hug, even that person at work everyone thinks is a bit weird.
But my favorite thing about this book is probably the fact that Eleanor didn't need a man to save her. There was a hint of romance, yes, but Eleanor, with the help of counselling and new-found friends, ultimately saved herself.

Read this book if you can, friends.

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