Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
I’m about to make a bold statement, and possibly prematurely given we’re only in June still, but I’d currently put this book at the top of my personal leader board for 2017.
Eleanor is a carefully and exquisitely crafted character. She’s one of those people who we all recognise from our workplaces, commute, or regular shopping trips. You know – shy, introvert, “keeps themselves to themselves”, clutches a shopper to her chest pretty much most of the time. She has short and perfunctury interaction only with her colleagues. Is resentful at the never ending workplace collections for engagements, birthdays and weddings, and seems to view everyone she works with as trivial and facile. There’s definitely an Eleanor in every workplace.
For the first part, you don’t know what the underlying reasons are for her oddness. She has an ordered, routine filled life. She works all week and then goes home on a Friday for a tesco pizza and two bottles of vodka, seeing no-one again until Monday. Her life is literally completely empty. You don’t really know if it’s the isolation from society which is causing her inability to behave or respond appropriately to social interaction, or something else.
Make no mistake though, Eleanor is hilarious. I laughed out loud at some of her observations and commentary. But from the off, the overwhelming feeling is of loneliness. Deep, deep loneliness and isolation.
And then, through a chain of circumstances, a new friend enters her life, and put simply, changes it. A misguided and odd crush on a pop singer follows, and you are left hoping with all hope that she doesn’t do something truly socially awful and get really hurt. I won’t give anything else away, but what I will say is even the observation of the object of her affections is also brilliantly witty, and too, too funny.
Gradually, more of Eleanor’s back story is picked away at, and revealed. I can honestly say I found myself laughing one minute and sitting with silent tears rolling down my face the next, as the cruelty she’d endured before is carefully unfolded and laid out for the reader to ponder.
A heart warming reminder that there are still good, kind people in the world, and a beautifully observed and witty tale, I couldn’t put it down. I had to know how things worked out for her. And now I miss her. I really do.
This quick post doesn’t do the book justice, but in my haste to persuade everyone to read it, I didn’t want to spend too long pondering. But if you’re in the market for something completely different, which will make you laugh and cry in equal measure, then this could be the book for you. I think Eleanor will stay with me for a long time.