There’s a reason that I decided to choose Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman as the first book review on Pages, Places, & Plates, and that’s because it’s the book that got me back into reading after an embarrassingly long book hiatus due to lack of motivation. It’s also the book that inspired me to review books in the first place, so I hope that my review does it justice!
Author: Gail Honeyman
Genre: Romance/psychological fiction
Published: May 2017
No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.
(Taken from Goodreads)
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I first picked up Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. It was a book I’d had my eye on for a while, despite not reading the synopsis – I think it was something about the cover, and the title. I guess I’d imagined some sort of cosy, simple read – not too thought-provoking, perhaps, but an enjoyable story that I could easily get my teeth into. I’d also noticed that every book club under the sun had got their hands on it! Interestingly I was both right and wrong with my expectations, but in a way that meant it was better than I’d hoped for.
Eleanor is an interesting protagonist, because she’s just so odd – at the start her actions and mannerisms seem bizarre, and it took me a few chapters to get used to her way of thinking. I was quite taken aback by her, if I’m honest , for she wasn’t what I was expecting. She’s a strongly developed character that certainly has her own voice, and Honeyman’s clever and consistent writing style allows us to become immersed in her personality – a difficult feat, as there are many facets to Eleanor that the reader won’t necessarily be able to relate to. I could sympathise with her experience of loneliness (as I’m sure many of us could nowadays) though her way of thinking was quite unusual, yet somehow Honeyman manages to make Eleanor’s confusing and quirky mind accessible.
Raymond is a wonderful character as well – the exact opposite to Eleanor in a way, yet also isolated. His completely different approach to the world enables Eleanor to cautiously emerge from her cocoon of a life, and he too begins to see things differently through her. Eleanor’s first impressions of him are quite harsh, noting his slovenly dress and smoker’s aroma, but she eventually warms to him as she realises that there’s more to life than her way alone.
The interactions between the two bring so much warmth and humour to the book, and once they’d met I just couldn’t put the book down. Much of the comedy comes from Eleanor herself, unintentionally, as she struggles to grasp with concepts most of us take for granted (why someone would want a Hollywood wax, for example). It’s not just humorous though, with a much darker and more poignant side to the book that increases as she embarks on her change of character. As we read further through the book more and more is understood about her past, and the reasons behind her strange outlook on life start to make sense.
The main message is focused around loneliness, but it’s actually much deeper than that – I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but let’s just say that it’s not as simple a plot as one might think. That’s what makes it so brilliant though, and why I physically couldn’t stop reading it, finishing the whole book in under two days and sneaking every opportunity I could to pick it back up. It’s been my favourite book of 2019 so far –
the world so beautifully crafted and the characters so unique. Even with a satisfying and wholesome ending I felt sad that it had to finish – that’s a sign of an excellent read to me.
f you’d like to purchase a copy of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine then you can do so here:
Gail Honeyman wrote her debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, while working a full-time job, and it was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress. She has also been awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award 2014, was longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines, and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. She lives in Glasgow.
(Taken from Goodreads)
What books have helped you get out of the dreaded reading slump? IShare below, and please also like and pin if you enjoyed this review. You can also check my other recent book reviews here:
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