REVIEW | Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Review

Gail Honeyman

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UPDATE: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine has just won the Costa Award 2017! Check it out here.

I took a super long holiday this year – a month and a half! And while I was super excited thinking that I’d spend all this time reading – that very much wasn’t the case. I didn’t read anything for nearly the whole of December! While the holiday feels were wearing off, I found myself hungry for a good, emotional book. And boy, did I find it in this one.

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.

Eleanor Oliphant lives a rigid, structured life. Her time is carefully scheduled into work, sleep, vodka and a weekly call with mummy. She doesn’t really get along well with people at work, or have friends at all – but there isn’t anything wrong with that, right? How much more can other people really improve her life? Eleanor Oliphant is happy with the way things are.

Or is she?

The novel is told through Eleanor’s perspective in which you can immediately tell that something is up with her. She’s a little weird, very standoff-ish, yet entirely logical. Her interactions with other people will make you raise an eyebrow, and some of her habits (like regularly drinking herself into oblivion) are some of the first signs that something is really wrong. During a work function she was practically forced to attend, she notices a performer on stage and instantly falls in love. She becomes so deeply infatuated with the musician that she buys a laptop computer in order to follow him on Twitter and Facebook… she even finds his address in hopes that she would be able to pass him some poetry so they’d fall in love and live happily ever after. In Eleanor’s mind, nothing could go wrong. If she plays her cards right, the musician is destined to fall in love with her… right?

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is surprisingly Gail Honeyman’s debut novel. I’ve seen this one here and there, but the blurb never really appealed to me – it felt like an aggressively average book. It was not. I can’t pinpoint what exactly made this novel so addicting. Perhaps it was Eleanor’s endearing nature, or the hopes that she would one day be able to face her problems and truly find love, or the tiny enigmatic nods to Eleanor’s horrendous past.

A philosophical question: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? And if a woman who’s wholly alone occasionally talks to a pot plant, is she certifiable? I think that it is perfectly normal to talk to oneself occasionally. It’s not as though I’m expecting a reply. I’m fully aware that Polly is a houseplant.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is equal parts frustrating and lovely. I found myself cheering Eleanor on, but also facepalming at some of her decisions or reactions. The novel is quite predictable towards the end, but the great thing about this novel is that it doesn’t really matter. You become so enrapt with Eleanor that she feels just like a friend and you just want the best for her. I listened to this one on Audible, and the narrator Cathleen McCarron did a beautiful job with the characterisation of each character. A great book for when you want something a bit deep and feelsy!