Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman cover and quote: 'Was this how it worked, then, successful social integration? Was it really that simple? Wear some lipstick, go to the hairdressers and alternate the clothes you wear?'

‘There was nothing to tempt me from the choice of desserts, so I opted instead for a coffee, which was bitter and lukewarm. Naturally, I had been about to pour it all over myself but, just in time, had read the warning printed on the paper cup, alerting me to the fact that hot liquids can cause injury. A lucky escape, Eleanor! I said to myself, laughing quietly. I began to suspect that Mr. McDonald was a very foolish man indeed, although, judging from the undiminished queue, a wealthy one.’

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a great book to read if you are in the mood for an easy contemporary. I almost wrote light contemporary but this book, though an easy read. It is not a light one. It deals with some difficult subjects but I won’t get into those as I don’t want to spoil the book.

We have our main character, Eleanor, who is living a rather boxed out life. She follows a strict routine, wears the same clothes every day, and calls her mother every Wednesday. And apparently she is completely fine, but you get this feeling right from the start that completely fine is actually COMPLETELY fine, as in who is she trying to fool, us/the world or herself?

She is an odd little character (I don’t know but in my mind I imagine her being petite) with quite a number of quirks. She has absolutely no social skills, she cannot read people thus her interaction with them is mostly weird. It’s like Eleanor is lacking all the social cues, values and meaning one would need to be able to function in society. I’m not saying she cannot function, because she can (ergo she is COMPLETELY fine) but let’s just say she is a diamond in the rough.

She is an unlikeable character and every reviewer of this book warns us about it. But oddly, I liked that about her. In the vast majority of the books we pick up, the characters have at least some traits we can identify with. These are the books we enjoy most as we are able to immerse ourselves in the respective character’s lives.

Eleanor is not a character the majority of us can identify with. She is annoyingly straightforward, always says what she thinks, and voices her opinion irrespective of what others might think of her.

‘No thank you,” I said. “I don’t want to accept a drink from you, because then I would be obliged to purchase one for you in return, and I’m afraid I’m simply not interested in spending two drinks’ worth of time with you.’

I think it is refreshing!

She doesn’t do it with purpose. That’s just the way she is. And in this book, you will find out why.

There are funny moments here and at times it is light and fluffy but overall, as the story progresses you find out some disturbing facts and overall the story is sad and painful. But somehow you are not sorry for Eleanor. At the end of the day, she is a strong person and I somehow knew she will pull through.

Throughout her book Eleanor is going through a physical and mental transformation and parts of it, at least the physical transformation parts have given me Ugly Betty vibes. Those were the fluffy parts filled with humor and lightness.

‘She had tried to steer me towards 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.’

‘Although 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.’

Though central to the story is Eleanor’s past and current life one of the major subjects of this book is friendship. How you try to accept another as they are, without judgment and prejudice and how you are there for your friends no matter what.

This is also a book about love, though not romance. It is how sometimes we fall in love with the idea of someone. An idea of how we imagine that someone to be and then how hard we try to live up to that idea. How we try to mold ourselves into someone who we think will fit into that idea. But in the end, we realize how silly we are.

I feel that this book could have been so much more than an easy contemporary. I am looking forward to reading Gail Honeyman’s next book. Hopefully, she’ll take her ideas to a next level and write something truly spectacular.

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