'Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine' is Gail Honeyman's debut novel and wow is it good. This book had me from the very first page. I found it extremely hard to review, not because it was bad but in fact because of how damn good it was. Every single time I would type something, and it just did nothing for me, the words that I was writing simply didn't capture the book well enough. If you haven't noticed, this is me still struggling...
I decided to just go with it and write about it, we'll just see how it turns out shall we?
I absolutely loved this book and so much of it rang true for me. Eleanor is such a brilliant heroine, she's got some absolutely fantastic throwaway comments and she's just so different from your average character. It is this difference which really makes this book though. Besides, how many heroines from books and/or movies do you know who are called Eleanor?
When we first meet Eleanor, she is most definitely not fine and is 100% stuck in a rut. She scorns other peoples need for human connection and distances herself from everyone. Eleanor is a typical loner with the addition of a rather ironic superiority complex. She sees herself as better than everyone else which is in rather stark contrast to her actual situation. Eleanor lives a structured life with her day to day being more about needs than wants. She has a strict routine which she sticks to like glue, which includes everything from her clothes to her Friday night frozen pizza and bottle of vodka combination.
Eleanor's lonliness and withdrawal from society has clearly caused depression even if it does go unnoticed by her. Her commentary on depression is so wonderful when she describes it as a “fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted". Though it may seem like a throwaway line, it is both extremely important and incredibly accurate.
I found myself relating to her in a different way than I had ever related to any other character from a book. This is the quintessential 'don't judge a book by its cover' lesson. In the beginning, Eleanor seems very odd and difficult to relate to (even if we've all shared her thoughts on humanity once or twice) but once you get to know her and learn about her story and how well she has actually coped with everything she's been through, you develop a new respect for her as a character.
Everything changes when she meets the rather unhygienic IT guy, Raymond who she works with. He is Eleanor's antithesis in almost every single way possible. They end up walking back from work together one day and witness a man collapsing. Eleanor is roped into helping this man by Raymond even though she feels no sort of sympathy for him. This man is called Sammy and slowly her whole life and world view change as a result of this one man.
The book follows Eleanor’s journey from her thoroughly traumatic past to a future where she might have a life rather than just a mere existence. Through Sammy and Raymond and their many friends and family members, Eleanor begins to understand how important it is to have friends and people who actually care about you and how important it is to have that element of human connection.
This book is a brilliant commentary of how connected each and every person is. How any act of kindness, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem to you at the time is vital. Sammy teaches Eleanor about love and friendship and how people improve each others lives just by being there. He is the very first person to hold Eleanor's hand and to look at her in a completely non judgemental way. Alongside Eleanor and her snide world view, we learn how vital it is to look upon each other with kindness.
Whilst Eleanor Oliphant is most definitely not completely fine, she is one fantastically different, vibrant and brilliant heroine. In short, this book will make you want to invite every single person you know round for a cup of tea and a hug...even the weird ones.
This book is an absolute must-read!