Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

January 8, 2018
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Book Cover Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Gail Honeyman
Contemporary Fiction
Viking - Pamela Dorman Books
May 9th, 2017
Cathleen McCarron

Meet Eleanor Oliphant. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully time-tabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

Then 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.

(via Goodreads)

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?


  • Patricia Nicole January 8, 2018 at 9:39 am

    I love your review! I have been putting off Eleanor for the longest time and I think I just want to dive in life too. As soon as I’m done with my current read, I’ll have a go with this Eleanor. You make it sound like somehow there’s a little Eleanor in ourselves too. Great review Jackie!

    • Jackie B January 12, 2018 at 9:26 pm

      Thank you so much, Patricia Nicole!! Eleanor Oliphant really resonated with me; I definitely feel like there is a bit of Eleanor in everyone. I hope you make time to read it. I will admit, I was also hesitant to pick it up, but I am so glad I did. Sometimes you need am emotionally polarizing novel. And this certainly got me feeling the whole spectrum of feels!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I really appreciate it! I hope you love Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine when you finally read it. Let me know what you think!!

  • Vijayalakshmi Harish January 8, 2018 at 10:38 am

    This is a book I’ve been looking forward to reading! Great review. It’s always a pleasure to see someone share the joy a book has given them,and your enthusiasm certainly comes through.

    • Jackie B January 12, 2018 at 9:30 pm

      Thank you so much, Vijayalakshmi! I’m glad to see that you found my enthusiasm shining through this review. I don’t often gush about the books I read– but Eleanor Oliphant is certainly an exception. I hope that you get a chance to read it soon and that you love it even half as much as I do. 😀

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I really appreciate you taking the time to offer your thoughts.

  • Birdie January 8, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    Amazing review! Everyone’s reviews of this book are so stellar that I’m 100% positive it’s a book I need to read!

    • Jackie B January 12, 2018 at 9:32 pm

      I’m glad you’ve seen other glowing reviews, Birdie! I feel like I haven’t seen Eleanor Oliphant popping up in many blogs. I’ll have to keep a keener eye out! Perhaps I’m just not following the right blogs?

      This is definitely a wonderful read. I hope that you can make time for it soon. It’s worth it. 😀

  • Helen Murdoch January 8, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    This is sitting on the top of my TBR pile, but I won’t get to read it until I finish reading the 14 non-fictions I am reading as a judge for the CYBIL Awards.

    • Jackie B January 12, 2018 at 9:27 pm

      You’re a judge for the CYBIL awards!!! That is super exciting! How did you get into this position? I would love to learn more about the whole process.

      I hope that you fly through those non-fiction books. Eleanor is a great treat waiting to reward you in the end. 😀

  • Grab the Lapels January 8, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    I haven’t read this book, but your review is the first one I’ve seen (or maybe I just now noticed) that suggests Eleanor is not very educated or maybe she has a mental disability. Others, I think, imply she is just a loner. Tell me more!

    • Jackie B January 8, 2018 at 11:00 pm

      Hm. I don’t mean to imply Eleanor is uneducated. She is VERY well educated. But she had a tramatic childhood which I personally believe led to the current way she interacts with the world. Without too many spoilers, Eleanor has conditioned herself to survive without any emotional support what-so-ever. She doesn’t recognize or understand the need to connect emotionally. To me, this feels a bit like a social communication disorder. Eleanor doesn’t seem to recognize sarcasm, understand social dynamics, or even recognize she is ignoring them most of the time. This manifests itself mostly in how she interacts with verbal interactions, but notably also in her LACK of noticing non-verbal interactions. Over the course of the book, as Eleanor confronts her past and begins to recognize the thing she has always denied herself (again, for survival) we begin to notice those barriers breaking down. We don’t see anything CLOSE to recovery. It’s obvious to me that Eleanor has forever crippled herself in one way to survive another way. While I have hopes that beyond the pages of this book she breaks these barriers, I can’t truly see her recovering.

      • Grab the Lapels January 9, 2018 at 2:42 pm

        This makes a lot of sense. It sounds like she has PTSD, which has led her to create barriers that cut out anything that may harm her.

        • Jackie B January 12, 2018 at 10:41 pm

          That is probably 100% what happened. My knowledge of how PTSD works is extremely limited and I have no experience with it. I wonder how accurate a portrayal this might be of PTSD….

          • Grab the Lapels January 13, 2018 at 8:07 am

            I’m in the same boat. I think it’s a very general description; people who experience recurring trauma as a result of a past trauma have PTSD, though the new trauma may not manifest itself in the same way as the old trauma.

            • Jackie B January 13, 2018 at 9:53 am

              Fascinating. Well, now you have me wanting to research PTSD! Perhaps there are some books featuring coping with PTSD I could read… 😉

  • Novels And Nonfiction January 8, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    Thanks for the shoutout! I’m so happy that you loved the book and that you decided to experience it in audio – which I think really adds to it. I think I may also buy a hardcover of it just to have on hand, since I think it’s taken a spot in my all-time favorite reads. I can’t believe it’s a debut novel and I just can’t wait till Honeyman’s next book.

    It’s funny that you related more to the people who Eleanor found annoying or weird because for me it was sort of the opposite in the sense that I can be a bit antisocial like Eleanor (nowhere to the same degree though), so I kind of identified with her sometimes.

    I love the SIXTH star at the end and totally agree! 😉

    • Jackie B January 12, 2018 at 11:14 pm

      I am 100% with you on owning a hardcover for myself. But I will probably also own a paperback copy I feel comfortable lending out. I really want to thrust this in the face of soooo many of my friends and demand they read it immediately. 😉

      I cannot believe this is Honeyman’s debut novel either!! I see nothing about future books– I hope she is a bit more prolific than another of my favorite authors, Erin Morgenstern. 😉

      Haha. I guess this just shows I’m the overbearing extrovert who doesn’t really respect other people’s needs? 😉 But seriously, it’s easy for me to see myself as the outsider in Eleanor’s world. I could relate a lot to some of her thoughts and ideas, but I don’t think I could relate to Eleanor as a character. That’s the beauty of literature, however, we can find similarities in the widest variations.

      • Novels And Nonfiction January 14, 2018 at 3:19 pm

        I’ll have to look up Erin Morgenstern! Having an extra copy to lend out is a great idea.

        • Jackie B January 15, 2018 at 1:11 pm

          Erin Morgenstern wrote The Night Circus and that’s all she wrote. I am still excited for the chance that she might write another book. The Night Circus is my favorite novel of all time.

  • LizScanlon January 10, 2018 at 8:14 am

    Fabulous review and thank you so much for including these fantastic quotes… I feel the need to drop everything and just read this book, now! 🙂

    • Jackie B January 12, 2018 at 11:16 pm

      You should! It’s really eye opening. I think you’d love some of Eleanor’s sassy internal monologue. She’s quite witty and brilliant. Plus, the book is set in Glasgow. When was the last time you read a book set in Glasgow?

  • Laila@BigReadingLife January 10, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    This is on my TBR and I’m going to have to try and get to it faster now that I’ve read your rave review.

    • Jackie B January 12, 2018 at 11:07 pm

      I hope you do! I cannot wait to hear what you think about it. In fact, there were times while listening to the audiobook where I thought about you in particular. You and Amanda @ Cover2CoverMom are the ones I think would like this book the most…

      That said, I don’t want to overhype it! I just hope you love it, too. 😀

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea January 10, 2018 at 4:50 pm

    Ah! I am so excited. I have an upcoming buddy read for this one. So I sort of skimmed your thoughts, but I cannot wait to come back and compare it once I complete this one. Bookmarking for sure <3

    • Jackie B January 12, 2018 at 10:50 pm

      !! Yes! I am super excited that you’re doing this buddy read style! That should be a ton of fun. I am certainly looking forward to those posts. I won’t spoil anything. I just hope you enjoy it as much as I did!!!

  • theorangutanlibrarian January 11, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    Such a lovely review for a brilliant book! One of the things that struck me the most was how much I empathised with Eleanor- more than a lot of characters- and so I loved what you said here about this teaching you about empathy. And the character growth was so amazing 😀 I did like that it revealed the truth very late on, because it allowed for us to go on the journey with Eleanor. And this was a really powerful book that dealt with so many issues fantastically well. Glad you loved it and thoroughly enjoyed reading your gorgeous review!

    • Jackie B January 13, 2018 at 9:22 am

      Thank you so much! This was a challenging review for me to write– I love this book so much, I still don’t think I’ve clearly articulated all my thoughts appropriately.

      I’m glad that you read this and enjoyed it as well! I’ll have to keep an eye out for your review. 😉 The character growth was spot on for me– and not just for Eleanor, even though she was the focus. I feel like Raymond and even her mother had quite a bit of growth as well.

      I know I’ll be re-reading this again some day. There must be so much more I can glean from these pages.

      • theorangutanlibrarian January 13, 2018 at 1:35 pm

        You’re welcome! I totally get that!

        hehe absolutely 😉 Ahh yes! You’re right!

        I get that!

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom January 12, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    Well obviously I’m going to read a book that you gave 6 stars!!!

    • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom January 12, 2018 at 6:14 pm

      I really enjoy books that help us become more empathetic to those that differ from us. I have a few friends that struggle in social settings, so I would probably really benefit from reading this.

    • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom January 12, 2018 at 6:15 pm

      I read a book last year that I think you might enjoy. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. From reading your review, I think it might have a similar vibe to it.

      • Jackie B January 13, 2018 at 9:41 am

        Haha– well *of course* you’ll read a six star book! XD I cannot wait to hear what you think about Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I have high hopes; I think you’d really enjoy this novel. The audiobook is wonderful as well!

        Melanie from Grab the Lapels pointed out that this sounds like proper PTSD reaction. Honestly, that should have occurred to me and I don’t know why it didn’t… lack of exposure to PTSD? Perhaps. Regardless of how Eleanor ended up in the situation she is in, I learned a lot about how to change the way I interact with the world. I don’t know how effective I’ll be, but now I consciously notice when people have different expectations from societal norms.

        I’ve added Counting by 7s to my TBR! Thank you for the recommendation! I do love my some quirky characters. 😀

        • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom January 14, 2018 at 5:54 pm

          You can always count on Melanie to point something out that we all missed lol

  • Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks January 13, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    Did you just ADD A SIXTH STAR?? xD

    I mean, I was going to read this book before, one day, probably, but now? You’re absolutely selling it to me xD brilliant review!!

    • Jackie B January 20, 2018 at 8:56 pm

      Of course I added a 6th star!!! I find that I do this occasionally… these are the books which I will love forever. My review for Illuminae is also a 6 star book. If I ever get to writing a review for The Night Circus you’ll see a 6th star there, too. All-Time Champion books in my eye, these are!

      I totally want you to read this. I am really curious to see what you’d think! Part of me thinks you’d love it, but part of me thinks you might be annoyed… I’m super curious.

  • Shouni January 22, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    Your review just sold it, Jackie. I definitely need to read this now! Eleanor sounds fantastic (and fascinating); I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a main character like her. Also, I love how you added a sixth star! For a second there, I thought I counted wrong 😀

    • Jackie B January 28, 2018 at 11:21 pm

      Thank you!!! It’s such an addicting book. Listening to the audiobook, I found myself sitting in the car or standing in a hallway listening before I went to my next thing. I was often late. Oops! It’s totally an addicting read. I hope you love it as much as I do. 😀

Participate in the discussion!

%d bloggers like this: