If A Little Life and Bridget Jones’ Diary had a lovechild, with Bridget having the dominant genes, Eleanor Oliphant 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 mentalillness, 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).
This book is much like it's title. I wouldn’t call it great and it’s certainly not bad, it’s just fine. I know I’m on my own when I give it a ‘meh’ review (it’s been optioned for film and TV rights, has a killer Goodreads rating, Reese Witherspoon won’t shut up about it) but it just fell a bit flat for me. It’s being compared to The Rosie Project but with darker undertones and that’s a totally legitimate comparison. It’s the story of an idiosyncratic woman whose routine of work, vodka, packet pizza and avoiding human interaction defines her existence. After a chance encounter with a colleague where they save a guy’s life, Eleanor begins a metamorphosis which will either see her discover joy and meaning in life or return to the work, vodka, pizza, avoiding humans fate. For all its shortcomings to win me over, there are things the book does well: Eleanor as a character is well-drawn and complex (although where others will say quirky I’ll go with unlikeable), it can be quite funny, and while the story is ultimately redemptive it puts a spotlight on mentalillness and the role profound loneliness plays in it. I guess I never really invested myself fully in this story, perhaps because I found it unconvincing or maybe I’m a just cold hard bitch?
I was given this one for Christmas last yr and was sceptical about reading it but lots of people I work with assured me I’d love it.
The way people raved about this book I expected it to be profound and almost soul inspiring. Yet I was left hanging without ever finding out what was going on with Eleanor. It’s obvious something is wrong, but it’s never explained what it is.
For a book that felt like it was going to have a strong message around mental health awareness it felt like it missed the mark by a long way. Other than the fact that she suffers yet also feels many of the same feelings as others there’s nothing unique or informative about what she’s going through. I would’ve loved to have found out what exactly she was suffering with and then seen those around her support her in a way that shows mentalillness can’t hold you back.
In the end the only reason I finished the book was because I’d been assured that all Eleanor’s oddities would be explained because it’d be shoved in my face so much it’d be impossible to miss. If I had have known that I wouldn’t get any answers I would’ve DNF. But I was assured all the answers would be given to me.
If you’ve read it and can help me out, please do. Because I honestly think there was so much missing.
Ms Honeyman has a lovely writing style that quickly draws you into the minds and drama of her characters. What a character Eleanor Oliphant is. You will fall in love with this tortured soul and be willing her on to embrace the changes as she negotiates her very mundane life. It will remind you that even something as small as smiling at a stranger can impact a persons day. Make the world a better place. This was a wonderful book for my book group, as although we all enjoyed it, we were able to each draw something different from it.
It is often the little things in life that can have the most impact. Eleanor has missed out on a lot of these " little things". Holding someone's hand, a hug, a smile, having someone brush your hair, sit with you while you eat or simply talking to you. She finds just wants to blend in, she's happy to do that. Until she is asked by Raymond to help a stranger who has fallen on the footpath. All of a sudden her life is catapulted into zone that is frightening as she begins to realise how lonely she is and how unhealthy emotionally her life has been. Her past is threatening to drown her In sorrow. But now she has Raymond and he is showing her how to bring some colour into her black and white life.
There are so many things going on in this book. Although it essentially dealing with mentalillness, Honeyman has written such an entertaining story you can't help feeling positive by the end of it and hopeful that we can all make a difference if we try. I shall certainly be looking out for more books by Ms Honeyman.