About the Author: Gail Honeyman is a former Glasgow University administrator living in Scotland. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is Gail’s first novel, which she wrote over the course of two and a half years while working her full time job. An interview about a young woman dealing with severe loneliness inspired Gail to write Eleanor’s story. Her novel is now an international success and the winner of multiple awards.
About the book: Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine – at least that’s what she’ll say to anyone who asks. She’s a 30-year-old finance clerk living in a perfectly acceptable apartment working at a perfectly acceptable job. She talks to her Mummy once a week on Wednesdays. Nothing to show here. One day she inadvertently helps rescue an elderly man and her life is thrown in a new direction. Suddenly she’s meeting people outside of work and (gasp!) going to parties! As she learns the value of healthy relationships though, she also must confront the buried memories of her past.
My Thoughts: I’ll admit I hesitated to read this book because of the hype surrounding it. Sometimes I find popular novels fall into a trap where every book reviewer gushes praise and adoration that isn’t necessarily deserved. Thankfully, Eleanor Oliphant is worthy of these reviews. I can’t say this book lands on my list of absolute favorite novels, but I enjoyed every moment of Eleanor’s story.
Eleanor is a quirky, socially unaware women on the surface. However, her experiences and thoughts are undeniably relatable. I wholeheartedly agree with her feelings about getting your hair washed at the salon. “That ended about nine hours before I would have liked it to.” Another example is her acknowledgement of her own loneliness. While she may not realize right away what exactly she’s missing, her description of her feelings of loneliness and it’s crushing ability are spot on.
“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.”
Truthfully, some of my favorite parts of this book were identifying with Eleanor’s thought processes and her handling of social situations. I completely sympathize with her confusion about the time guests should show up at a party! It’s nonsense to have everyone arrive “sometime” after the start time haha. I’m also an accountant who reads every day at lunch and loves the challenge of a crossword puzzle! It’s perfectly acceptable to spend that hour alone 🙂
Eleanor’s sarcasm is a delight to read. Thankfully, Honeyman didn’t write her as a one dimensional educated female with no sense of humor. She made me laugh out loud multiple times and I found myself thinking she’d be a terrific friend to have around. I want to find out her opinion on practically every subject. One of my favorite quotes was her response to the McDonalds coffee she ordered:
“Naturally, I had been about to pour it all over myself but, just in time, had read the warning printed on the paper cup, alerting me to the fact that hot liquids can cause injury. A lucky escape, Eleanor!”
I also thoroughly enjoy the vocabulary Honeyman uses throughout the novel. It’s refreshing to see unusual and lengthy words, even if the purpose is mainly to showcase one of Eleanor’s character quirks. Taking a quick break to look up the meaning of new words is well worth the effort. Plus, Honeyman peppers them into the text in the perfect ratio. Eleanor isn’t trying too hard to sound intelligent, she merely is. Clearly Gail took great care in her word choice. This is also evident in her use of “fine” throughout the book. This word and its meaning subtly evolves accordingly with Eleanor’s emotional state.
Eleanor’s age is another unique feature of her story that I appreciated. If the book hadn’t mentioned she was 30, I would peg her as an older women. Even as I was reading, I kept needing to mentally readjust my picture of her to make her closer to my own age. It’s an important reminder that younger adults still experience loneliness.
I’ve heard this novel is comparable to A Man Called Ove and while I can see the similarities, overall I felt a deeper emotional connection to the characters in Backman’s book. Eleanor’s past makes her more intriguing, but I was easily able to guess the details. So, the revelations near the end of the book weren’t as impactful. Despite that, I’d still highly recommend Eleanor Oliphant to anyone who appreciates memorable characters!
What are your thoughts on Eleanor Oliphant?