Book Title: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Author: Gail Honeyman
When one receives two recommendations for the same book on the same day and then is urged on by a few others, one’s will-power really stands no chance. I am only human after all. That’s how I found myself heading over to Amazon and clicking ‘Buy now’ on Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Four days later, it has been delivered and read.
The book tells the story of Eleanor Oliphant (obviously) a thirty year old woman. She is a quaint character, dry and friendless, who leads a simple life, with few interests and no ambition. She has no friends and doesn’t miss having them either.
She has a mysterious, perhaps dark, past, moving from foster homes to juvenile shelters, never staying at one place for too long, never forming relationships. All she seems to have are weekly phone conversations with her ‘mummy’ who is in some kind of prison and continues to have a strong hold on Eleanor’s life.
She works at an office – the one she joined right after college, and has been there for nine years. She is aware that she is the subject for gossip and ridicule and doesn’t quite mind it, even laughing at the jokes cracked at her expense.
Then one day she gets caught up (rather reluctantly) in rescuing an old man who has collapsed on the street. That’s how her life begins to change, one bit at a time.
What I loved
I didn’t warm up to Eleanor through the first few pages. But then she isn’t a loveable character, definitely not one you can love at first sight.
She improves immensely over the pages. I grew to love her quirky sense of humour. Her world view is endearing – she finds the entire world strange even while the world thinks she is the strange one. The matter-of-fact way in which she accepts her exclusion is at once funny and sad. I loved how she accepts her looks despite the scar on her face.
Initially, I found it odd how judgemental she was. She judged everyone, all the time, without even being aware of it. She judged them for the way they behaved, the way they ate or conducted themselves as also the way they dressed and looked. Which is why it was gratifying to watch her grow out of that mindset, one that had been fostered in the early years of her life. It was wonderful to watch her find her own voice, which was gentler, kinder, more considerate.
The book brings out in heartbreaking, frightening reality how much our childhood experiences mould the adults we become. This was the most remarkable thing about it – Eleanor’s transformation – her journey from merely ‘fine’ to happy and content. That remains my most precious takeaway – that being fine is not enough, that life is much more. Life is about relationships, about finding love and happiness.
The not so good bits
First, there was the bit about her mother. Considering that she affected Eleanor so strongly I wanted to know more about her, about their relationship, what was it that led to the ‘accident’. But we never get a really clear picture – only the bits and pieces from Eleanor’s rather shaky memory. I was left with many unanswered questions.
However, my major issue with the book was that it had too many shades of two of my most loved reads – A Man Called Ove and The Rosie Project. Those two are so high up there among my all time favourites that I could not help but recognise them here.
Comparisons are odious I know, but also inevitable.
When it comes to portraying a curmudgeon with a heart none can beat Ove. One connects with him right from the first page when he goes to buy that iPad (this one also has Eleanor going to buy a computer). Then there’s the likeness with the inimitable Don Tillman of The Rosie Project, as the wonderfully sweet scientist with Asperger’s Syndrome. Eleanor’s portrayal of social ineptness reminded me of him and his character was crafted so much better that her oddities didn’t stand out. Perhaps had I read this one first I would have enjoyed it without the comparisons.
Also, she’s never had a McDonald’s burger in thirty years of her life?
Last thought: This one is most definitely worth a read. Do pick it up.
Have you read the book? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Click on the link below to buy Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine at Amazon.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy the book on Amazon through this link, I will get a referral fee, at no additional cost to you.