You might have noticed a few weeks ago when I was in the middle of reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine I listed it as one of my top reads of 2017. I was wrong. It is THE top read of 2017 for me! I finished reading this novel so happy I picked it up but completely wrecked inside.
I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked up Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Gail Honeyman’s debut novel was making the rounds on the blogs, but it wasn’t until I read Ottavia’s review at Novels and Nonfiction that I felt compelled to pick this book up. Not just the book, but specifically the audiobook. A beautiful book effortlessly twisting together darkness and lightheartedness, Eleanor Oliphant is not to be missed.
When you’re struggling hard to manage your own emotions, it becomes unbearable to have to witness other people’s, to have to try and manage theirs too.
As the title states, Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. She is intelligent, well-spoken, and practical. She is comfortable with routines, even if they do involve consuming two large bottles of vodka slowly between Friday night and Sunday night. No one comes over and she goes nowhere to visit. The only humans in her life other than her coworkers are her social worker and her Mummy. Her physical needs are adequately met. There’s nothing missing. Life is just fine.
In principle and reality, libraries are life-enhancing palaces of wonder.
In many ways, Eleanor knows she is odd. She’s awkward and a loner. She lacks social skills and tends to say exactly what is on her mind. She cannot connect to the mundane bits of the world humanity clings to. Eleanor recognizes she has an inability to grasp how people expect her to behave.And that’s okay with Eleanor. She likes things just as they are.
Althrough it’s good to try new things and to keep an open mind, it’s also extremely important to stay true to who you really are.
Yet, two events occur in a short period of time which will transform her life forever.First, she spots a handsome musician and is completely smitten. Suddenly obsessed with the idea that they will be together and the perfect couple, Eleanor is compelled to take part in social and beauty rituals she never considered while she researches the object of her affection via social media.
The second event occurs one afternoon as she is walking home, accidentally accompanied by the bumbling IT-guy who smokes, Raymond. They witness an elderly man collapse and call for help. Saving Sammy’s life suddenly introduces Eleanor to a world she never thought she’d know– one with friendships.
LOL could go an take a running jump. I wasn’t made for illiteracy; it simply didn’t come natually.
Being in Eleanor’s head as she narrates her tale was a bit jarring at first. Slowly, however, I came to appreciate the way Eleanor views the world and how those with limited emotional intelligence might be frustrated or confused by the rest of us. I learned so much. I have walked away after reading this book with a greater sense of empathy for those who struggle in social situations. I found myself constantly laughing with the situations Eleanor found herself in. Sometimes at her, sometimes with her, but mostly at myself for realizing I’m the person Eleanor is interacting with– -and honestly, Eleanor is right. We’re all a bit crazy.
She had tried to steer me toward vertiginous heels again – why are these people so incredibly keen on crippling their female customers? I began to wonder if cobblers and chiropractors had established some fiendish cartel.
Throughout the book, Eleanor slowly experiences a metamorphosis. The novel is divided into three parts: Good Days, Bad Days, and Better Days. We start knowing Eleanor as the pillar of stability she wants to be. As the Good Days progress, she begins to take more risks in an attempt to emerge a beautiful butterfly worth the notice of the man she has fallen for. Cracks in her façade begin to appear when things become challenging, however. And here the Bad Days come. Secrets and memories she has been hiding from herself start to emerge. As she better gets to know herself through her newly developed friendships with Sammy and Raymond Eleanor is forced to see herself as she really is.As they say, it is always darkest before the dawn.
When the silence and 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.
Following Eleanor’s story is both uplifting and heart-breaking. I adore her character development, but Honeyman’s writing is what truly clenched this novel for me.Eleanor is consistent despite the complete physical and emotional change she takes on throughout the novel. Never once did I feel like Eleanor stopped being true to herself. The pacing was also practically perfect. Listening to the audiobook, I found I wanted to keep listening long after I had arrived at my destination. There is always one more next thing to learn. The fact that Eleanor’s story is never fully revealed until the last page felt perfect. I didn’t need to know before the end, and I didn’t want to. Honeyman’s choices in plot and pacing kept me fully engaged with Eleanor.
In the end, what matters is this: I survived.
This novel covers some terrifying topics and left me occasionally breathless in tears – both sad and happy ones. Yet the text was never sensational or felt out of place. While this is Eleanor’s story, the tale of her reconstructing her childhood and how lack of emotional needs being met led her to this place, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is really a tale of friendship.Eleanor Oliphant, Raymond, and Sammy all show us the significance of kindness, the consequences of its absence, and the magnitude even the smallest gesture can make. Heartbreaking at times, I feel uplifted having read this book. And I strongly recommend you read it too.
What do you think?
- Have you read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine? Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts?
- What is the last novel you read where you connected with a character completely unlike yourself? What character? Why?
- Do you know novels which address mental health concerns that impaced you strongly? What are they? Why did you feel that way?
- What was your favorite read of 2017?