Title: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Author: Gail Honeyman
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Mystery
Published: May 2017
I unexpectedly won a copy of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine back in May in a Goodreads competition – what a jammy sod. Yet it’s taken me this long to pick it up off my TBR pile as I have been going through a bit of a reading slump lately. This is the first book I finished since getting my mojo back.
Eleanor is a 30 year old finance clerk who spends her working days doing the same routine and her weekends alone in her flat drinking vodka and sleeping. She may not have any friends but don’t worry – she’s fine with it. All it takes is for her and work colleague Raymond to witness an old man collapse in the street for her life to turn her upside down. Will these big life changes be good for Eleanor, or simply push her over the edge?
Trigger warning: this book deals with physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault, self harm and alcoholism.
The book synopsis to me sounded like it would be a light, quirky read but after the first few chapters I realised this was not the case; I was completely unprepared for how dark this book was going to get.
To say Eleanor is a complex character is an understatement. She’s socially awkward, obnoxious, stuck in her ways and oblivious to the snide remarks her work colleagues make towards her most days. With her also being the narrator I could tell early on that although she is very intelligent there was something not quite right. There were a few red flags:
- She has a big scar across one cheek.
- She gets drunk every weekend and becomes reliant on the vodka to be able to sleep.
- She puts up with her abusive phone calls with ‘Mummy’ every week without fail.
- She falls in love (read: obsessed) with a musician without knowing a lot about him.
- She honestly believes that being fine is enough.
After the incident with Sammy, the old man who collapsed in the street, she gains an unlikely friendship with Raymond who is in fact her first ever friend! She’s introduced to a lifestyle she’s never had before but her disturbing past keeps creeping up on her to try ruin it. Gail done a great job on letting the reader learn more about Eleanor while still leaving us wanting to know more.
Why did she get put into care as a child? How did she get the scar on her face? Why does she have such a toxic relationship with Mummy? What happened to her Dad? Will she ever meet the musician?
Gail was also able to create realistic yet hilarious scenarios that most of us would have already experienced before turning 30 like her first time in McDonalds and getting her makeup done in a department store. It highlighted just how much her childhood trauma and previous abusive relationships held her back from truly living her life – and not just surviving it.
Another thing I love about the book is how the friendship between Eleanor and Raymond grew without it being soppy or romantic. Sure, it was left at a point where it could develop into something more but it didn’t become the main focus which I personally preferred. Instead it shines a light on the importance of kindness, friendships and learning from your past.
“I simply didn’t know how to make things better. I could not solve the puzzle of me.”
If you are looking for an emotional yet funny story with three-dimensional protagonist and some shocking plot twists then you’re going to want to pick up Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It’s now one of my favourites book of the year!