This was recommended by my FB book club and since joining have explored lots of new genres I wouldn’t have read this before but I am so very glad I did I loved the story and as for Eleanor OMG I totally fell in love with her character and quirkiness I was sad to finish it and would definitely recommend this book to everyone I know
If A Little Life and Bridget Jones’ Diary had a lovechild, with Bridget having the dominant genes, EleanorOliphant is Completely Fine would be that child. Eleanor is a warm character, whose tragic past can’t help but illicit sympathy. The book is a Richard Curtis film-in-waiting. And like a Richard Curtis film, the book will most appeal to the easiest pleased. It has a bit of struggle, a nice ending, some idiosyncratic Britishness but bears no scrutiny. Eleanor’s a good character, but she’s doesn’t exist outside page being read. One minute she has mental illness, then it’s PTSD, the next she’s just kooky, then risky bonkers. One minute she’s never been inside a shop or had a friend, the next she’s loved by all who meet her. It makes no sense; as a reader you just have to park your intelligence and be willing to accept it (I was reminded more than once of the notecard-at-the-door scene in Love Actually).
3.5-4★ Poignant, yet funny, EleanorOliphant’s story will touch many readers. Raised in many foster homes, she remembers “at each new school, I’d tried so hard, but something about me just didn’t fit. There was, it seemed, no Eleanor-shaped social hole for me to slot into.”
A good student, she never saw the point of school sports days.
”How they loved to wear those badges on their blazers the next day! As if a silver in the egg-and-spoon race was some sort of compensation for not understanding how to use an apostrophe.”
She recalls “I never managed to find anyone who could fit the spaces that had been created inside me.”
We meet Eleanor at thirty, at work. She prides herself on having been taught excellent manners by Mummy and on doing her work perfectly. Manners, yes. Social skills – not so much. But she has a wry sense of humour about what she does.
“I’m a finance clerk. I could be issuing invoices for anything, really: armaments, Rohypnol, coconuts.”
She won’t talk about her past (Mummy), and she won’t talk about an abusive boyfriend she had for a couple of years. We understand she seems plain and has scars on one side of her face. She wishes to “. . . disappear into everywoman acceptability. I would not be stared at. The goal, ultimately, was successful camouflage as a human woman. . . . I aspire to average … I’ve been the focus of far too much attention in my time. Pass me over, move along please, nothing to see here.”
This was a girl probably not born with autism or Asperger’s or OCD but who had a Mummy who taught her to keep her mouth shut . . . or else.
“It’s quite frightening to think about the ideas that I may have absorbed from Mummy.”
So she shies away from revealing much, but she can’t help gushing to us about the lead singer of a local band on whom she’s developed an almighty schoolgirl crush, almost to the point of stalking. She can be quite poetic, when she wants to be.
“His eyes were light brown. They were light brown in the way that a rose is red, or that the sky is blue. They defined what it meant to be light brown.”
She’s been working in the same office for many years, has no friends and hates that she has to talk to Mummy every Wednesday (although she doesn’t know where Mummy is, and while we have our suspicions, we don’t really know either). Mummy's conversation continues to be critical and demanding--demanding that Eleanor learn to live with her shortcomings and lack worthlessness.
But Eleanor accidentally makes a friend, a nice guy and co-worker who urges her to help him rush to the aid of an old gent who’s collapsed in the street.
Much of this is a delightful story, albeit with dark undertones (wait till you hear Mummy). Her brave attempts to make herself an irresistible object of lust for her heartthrob singer are both funny (especially the waxing!) and earnest. She’s determined!
She self-medicates on weekends with Vodka, so she’s not all goodness and light, by any means. But EleanorOliphant is quite real, and while this isn’t an Ugly Duckling story, it is nice to watch her learn when to lower her standards and when to raise them.
I would have enjoyed this more Declan, the abusive boyfriend. We never really learn how he figured into her life or why, and I didn’t think the bit we did hear added much to the story. But I look forward to more from author Gail Honeyman.
Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins for the preview copy from which I’ve quote (so quotes may have changed).
EleanorOliphant is completely fine By Gail Honeyman
Reviewed by Jay Gilbertson
Fine. Think of that word for a moment. Fine. We blurt it out when asked how we are or how the kids are or how the soup is. But in this particular novel, EleanorOliphant is anything but. What she is will surprise you, maybe even scare you a bit, certainly she’ll teach you a few things and I just know, in the end, you will come to love her. I did. Told entirely in first person, we see the world through Eleanor’s eyes. I should note that this is not an exciting, adventure-filled tale full of lofty thoughts and delightful characters that race through life and blast off into the sunset. Hardly. It’s a revelation of what it’s like to live on the very edge of life. To exist as almost a shadow-person. Eleanor is someone we all have known and seen and passed by. And, she deserves a closer look. This is author Honeyman’s debut novel, I had to check to make sure, the writing is that of a well-seasoned blockbuster. The way she skillfully weaves Eleanor’s tattered and dark and mysterious life into something vital is at the core of why this tale matters. We learn early on that Eleanor has a very scared face, that she lives alone, works as an accounts receivable clerk in an office and routine and order rule. Each Wednesday, like clockwork, she speaks on the phone to her mummy. Keep in mind, Eleanor is nearly thirty. “It’s only been a week, I know, but it feels like an age since we last spoke, Mummy. I’ve been so busy with work and—She cut across me, nice as pie on this occasion, switching her accent to match mine. That voice; I remembered it from childhood, heard it still in my nightmares.” Socially, this woman is a totally inept. Not only does she lack a clue as to how humans interact socially, she has pretty much simply given in to the fact that she will most likely always live alone. And then a musician catches her eye while all the time Raymond, the IT guy at her work-place, hovers on into her strange life. She justifies her very existence with simple facts as only she can see them. “I do not light up a room when I walk into it. No one longs to see me or hear my voice. I do not feel sorry for myself, not in the least. These are simply statements of fact.” And this. “Some people, weak people, fear solitude. What they fail to understand is that there's something very liberating about it, once you realize that you don't need anyone, you can take care of yourself. That's the thing: it's best just to take care of yourself. You can't protect other people, however hard you try. You try, and you fail, and your world collapses around you, burns down to ashes.” Though the ending seemed pretty pat, by the time you get there, you are ready for some happy. Author Honeyman manages to NOT show any self-pity toward her quirky character and the sudden twist at the end, well, it will make you wonder. And that’s the sign of a really good read. • You know an Eleanor • Are you an Eleanor?