December 29, 2018

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman | Book Review

**Before I start, I want to point out that there will be spoilers in this review so don’t get all mad if I let the cat out of the bag because here is your warning. Second warning is that the book contains events that may be triggering for some people as it touches on alcohol abuse, child abuse, murder and also suicide.**

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman

This book has been on my list of things I wanted to read for a long time but I just kept forgetting about it really and it wasn’t until I downloaded Audiobook version read by Cathleen McCarron on a whim that I was prompted to stop making excuses and make time for this book as so, so many people have raved about it, so I started listening. I think I was hooked as soon as I listening to the sample to be honest and I’m quite annoyed with myself that it took me so long to start because it is by far one of the best books I’ve read to date and it wrecked me in the most devastatingly brilliant way.

After reading Reece Witherspoon’s review where she says its “beautifully written and incredibly funny” I expected it to be rather light hearted but it soon had you plumetting down into the dark world of depression and lonliness and I found it more devistating than funny so I’m not sure if I’ve entirely misinterpreted a lot of it or if she read a different book but for me, it certainly wasn’t “incredibly funny”.

“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 for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say”

Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

The Author Gail Honeyman has spoken about how the inspiration for Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine came from reading about an ordinary 20 something who experienced profound loneliness with a solitary life flitting between home and work and back again without any sort of socialising between the two. She was particularly inspired by the fact that this was a young person as someone in their 20s with a home and a good job isn’t really the typical mould for loneliness so this novel really opens up your eyes to a less stereotypical story about the effects of loneliness.

This prompted her to write this novel with the prontagonist following the same, lonely existent of the young adult she read about before. Eleanor is in her late 20s and has worked for the same company for many years but despite the years under her belt she has formed no friendships within her workplace and her life consists of work throughout the week and a weekend of solitude broken only by a bottle of vodka, a frozen pizza and a phone call from her cruel, abusive “Mummy”. When Eleanor falls for a rock star at a gig she vows to change herself to become a “human woman” in order to make him fall in love with her. At this point I did worry a bit that the story would just be about your typical quest for love and end with Eleanor and the musician falling in love and voila, Eleanor’s loneliness is cured. I was very glad I turned out to be extremely wrong.

“You can’t have too much dog in a book.”

Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

As Eleanor’s character develops throughout the beginning, the author really makes quite drastic steps in order for her to come across completely isolated and almost clueless to quite everyday things. For example, on her quest to make the musician fall in love with her she visits a beautician who asks if she would like a smokey eye to which she takes literally and retorts that she doesn’t like anything to do with smoking along with some other points where she takes things quite literally which made me begin to feel as though maybe she fell somewhere on the autistic spectrum which would perhaps be later uncovered however I couldn’t decide whether this was the aim or whether the author wanted to make her come across unaware of social norms due to her extremely isolated life but a few things just didn’t add up for me if I’m being picky.

It ended up being the latter and I feel like she maybe went a bit overboard at times with Eleanor’s puerility and had I not presumed she was perhaps something else underlying at first I would have more than likely found her character quite unrealistic considering that Eleanor reads the newspaper daily as well as watches television programs recommended by the said newspaper.

“It is incomprehensible to me now that I could ever have thought that anyone would love this ambulant bag of blood and bones.”

Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

While I can appreciate the angle the author was aiming for now I’ve finished the book, even if Eleanor only watched nature programs or what have you there will have been an abundance of adverts before or during as well as in the newspaper and it almost feels a little unbelievable that she could have avoided these entirely her whole life. This made it quite difficult to relate to because it paints the picture that loneliness means complete ignorance to the world today when I’m certain that there are people with the same level of loneliness as Eleanor who know who Spongebob is for instance and perhaps it would have been a touch more relatable if she was slightly more ordinary. This niggle however, didn’t take away the main point of the story and I was invested in it the whole way through.

While it was evident that there was some level of depression to be uncovered throughout the book along with some suicidal hints, the suicide chapter was done extremely well and shocked me at how, despite the build-up and how obvious that Eleanor was struggling to the reader while seeming so resilient to the other characters around her, the way the author shocked the reader with this chapter was horrendously brilliant and portrayed in a fantastically sudden and accurate way leaving me with an almost physical ache in my chest for Eleanor.

“When the silence and the aloneness press down and around me, crushing me, carving through me like ice, I need to speak aloud sometimes, if only for proof of life.” 

Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

This is one of the first books to leave me with a book hangover in a long time, despite the niggle with the extremity of Eleanor’s social knowledge, or lack of should I say and how extra her story was for a story inspired by someone ordinary, this is by far one of the most profoundly and wonderfully written books I have ever read. I feel like I need to know more, to check Eleanor is okay still, did she and Raymond become an item because part of me was so hoping that it would come to that in the end. It’s definitely one to add to your list if you’ve not read it already and I am a bit lost without my nightly audiobook now and I feel like I need to buy the paperback for my bookshelf so I always have this in my collection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.