Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – #BookReview

Eleanor Oliphant-2

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 story

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. 

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21 thoughts on “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – #BookReview

  1. Mayuri Nidigallu

    Absolutely loved this one! Did not warm up to Eleanor initially either, but she sneaked her way into my heart, and stayed there.
    I love your review, Tulika and how you’ve shared the bits you didn’t agree with.

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. Zephyr

    Loved your review. Might pick it up one of these days. I have not read Ove, so might not be jarred by the points you have mentioned. And that book has also been on my TBR for some time now. What do you think? Which should I read first?

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  3. Rajlakshmi

    Which genre would you put this in? I somehow always skirt around books that deal with human emotions and relationships. I guess it takes a different state of mind to read books like Eleanor. I haven’t read Ove yet, so wondering which one I should start with. Comparing books is normal I guess. Specially when you have read so much, you begin to draw paralles.

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      I’m not sure what genre I’d put it in but it is a very human story and how relationships affect us, make us happier and more human. It’s an easy read Raj – touching and beautiful.

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  4. shanayatales

    Hmm..it’s interesting that you compare it with A Man Called Ove & The Rosie Project. I agree that though not ideal, such comparisons are inevitable. And I personally am glad you mentioned it, because I haven’t read any of these 3 books, and I am now wondering which one I should read first.

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      You will have to make the decision on your own I guess :-). Eleanor is more hard hitting. Ove is gentler in the way it handles loneliness with more humour which takes away the edge. Rosie Project is just sweet and funny. So take your pick.

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      Do read it Corinne for the Eleanor’s unusual take on life. Even though i compared the two, I liked it.

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  5. the bespectacled mother

    I finished reading this one today. I knew you had written this book’s review so I had to visit. I loved it. I cried at many places during the Bad and Better days. I felt like I knew Eleanor even from the first few pages. I understood her. I liked her take on make-up being a tool in garnering people’s acknowledgement alongwith several others words of wisdom. You might find it strange but I too compared it with A man called Ove. While Ove was more vocal about his irritations with the world, Eleanor wasn’t. Her character was limited to running thoughts in her mind. My thoughts – this book worked more for me than Ove. Perspective.
    I would like to go on and on discussing the story and the characters.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      You know what this is the best bit about books and reading and about talking books? We like/dislike books based on our own personalities and perceptions of characters. Like I said to Shantala in the comment above, I preferred Ove because Backman handles him with much more humour. Eleanor is more stark, sadder, lonelier. Ove has his wife for much of his life and then later she lives on in his heart and mind. Eleanor has no one except her mother and that’s worse than being all alone. And the way she accepts it, even prides herself on it is even sadder – as if she deserves nothing and no one. I get that. I get why someone can cry for her.
      And yet Ove appealed more to me maybe because he was more real to me – I have known and loved old men like him – my grandfather for one.
      As for going on and on – you know you are more than welcome. That’s the whole point of it all.

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  6. Shalzmojo

    Aha I was waiting for your review T – and I love it. I havent read the other two books, though Ove is on my bookshelf now. I loved Eleanor from the start – she is such a perfectionist without meaning to be; I was almost finding her autistic – if you know what I mean. Will not lie; if party time is 8 pm then it should be that and why 15 mt late and so on and so forth.
    She is forever “straightening” out the world with her perceptions and I think I loved that quirk – quite a coping mechanism.
    Mummy was frightening and I imagine she got fed up of the little one crying so set the house on fire to kill both as she couldnt cope with them. She seems to have berated them so much and thats the voice that speaks all the time. I was stunned by the “prison” – didnt see that coming.
    Overall I just loved her – now I cant wait to read Ove!!!! 🙂

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      Ditto, I didn’t see the prison bit either. I did agree with her on so many things that are socially acceptable yet completely wrong. That was the charm of her character – the quirkiness. I think you’ll like the book Shalini.

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  7. kathnotkat

    Brilliant review! I absolutely adored Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and, also, felt I had to pick it up after so many people recommending it to me! I think it deserves the hype.

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