Publication: May 18th 2017 by HarperCollins Pages: 383 Purchase: Amazon | Waterstones | Book Depository Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live. Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything. One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life. Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?
These days, loneliness is the new cancer–-a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. 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, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.
First things first: I have to acknowledge that I am probably the last person on the planet to have picked up Gail Honeyman’s award-winning Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I’ve passed by it in Waterstones countless times, I’ve ignored recommendations on the assumption that it wouldn’t be to my taste and, now that I’ve finally caved and read it, all I have to say is that I wish I hadn’t waited so long.
From the very first page, I was intrigued by Eleanor and, due to the first-person narration, found myself connecting with her very quickly. At first, I was surprised by this, as I didn’t feel I shared a lot of opinions with her — however, as I read, I began to recognise some of myself in this troubled young woman and, from there on out, Honeyman’s book was an emotional rollercoaster.
Of course, that is not to say that I have ever experienced anything as traumatic as Eleanor Oliphant experiences in this book. However, the feelings of loneliness in a modern world, and of depression, and of trying to find the easiest way out are, unfortunately, feelings that a great deal of us can probably relate to.
What touched me the most about this book, though, were the themes of love, friendship and — ultimately — acceptance. Watching Eleanor learn how to live her life more fully, and how to connect with the people around her, was a truly wonderful journey to be part of.
It’s hard to believe that this is debut novel. The writing and the vocabulary are of an extremely high standard but, at the same time, never once alienate the reader. There was no point I lost my way while reading this novel, and there was also no point that I wanted to stop. The story and the characters were absolutely captivating, and I believe I’ll be thinking about this book for a very long time.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, to my surprise and delight, really lived up to the hype. I’m so glad I finally picked this one up. If you, like me, have been hesitant to do so, then I urge you to give Gail Honeyman’s debut a chance. You won’t be disappointed.
There are scars on my heart, just as thick, as disfiguring as those on my face. I know they’re there. I hope some undamaged tissue remains, a patch through which love can come in and flow out. I hope.