Synopsis: No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . . The only way to survive is to open your heart.
Review: I picked up “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine(EOICF)” because almost everyone around me was talking about it. When a book is chosen by Reese Witherspoon book club, I had to admit defeat and pick up the paperback. I liked the hardback’s jacket design, but I could not afford it.
EOICF was a welcome change after several books of the fantasy genre. Being a debut novel by author Gail Honeyman, I prepared myself to be open-minded. I was bowled over, to say the least.
If this book were food, then Gail Honeyman would be a MasterChef. What a brilliant piece of literature. I confess to being a logophile, and I learned several words from this book. Rarely, do I need a dictionary to keep myself from stumbling over understanding a text. However, I had to note down words and pull up my trusty dictionary to make sense of sentences. It was worth it.
Eleanor-our protagonist- is described as an unlikeable-but-relatable, loner. The title of the book is ironic in many ways. Eleanor is always fine, or so she says. In fact, we say the same thing whenever we are asked,”How are you?”
I remember, a time, when someone asked me,”Hey! How are you doing ?” And, I answered, truthfully, I am not doing okay. Then, I can to unravel and the dam broke, letting gallons of water out. The person who was the instigator of the flood could only stare down in awkward silence and later patted my back and murmured false reassurances and bid goodbye. Then, while home, I wondered why I was such a blabbermouth. I should have just told him that I WAS FINE!
“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”
That is one of the salient points this book talks about. Mental health is, if not more, but as important as physical health. Mental illness like depression should not be ignored like a mosquito sting -like a nuisance.
Eleanor’s life is pretty mundane. Eleanor works in an office after work she comes home to watch tv or read books, then drinks herself to sleep. Her routine changes after she becomes acquainted with a colleague, named Raymond. Raymond is also described as an unlikeable character, which is a refreshing change from most of the male characters/Adonises I have encountered in a book.
- This is the point where I need to mention that if readers pick up this book expecting romance, you will be sorely disappointed. Although, there is a tease of romance budding at the end of this book.
At First glance, Eleanor’s actions can be interpreted as rude, but as the story progresses, you cannot help but wish well for Eleanor. I had first thought Eleanor was autistic. Her mannerisms displayed in the first few chapters were akin to men/women/other who are on the autism spectrum. I will not further speculate on that matter.
As the story progresses, we come to know Eleanor has a scar on her face as a result of being a victim in a house fire. Her childhood was a traumatic one, which I had not expected while I started reading the book. I ended up loving Eleanor Oliphant, maybe because she was a wordsmith and tactless in her conversations. I ended up enjoying the way the story progressed: how each of her scars was revealed. How she progresses from being a lonely, depressed character to a confident,engaging character who recognized her symptoms of depression. Furthermore,she realized that the singer -“to-be love of her life”- was not worthy of the title.She transformed into the Eleanor who faced her childhood trauma head-on and finally purged all the negativity out of her life.
I love the ending. The ending will leave you flabbergasted. It left me with a sense of hopelessness and hope. Hopelessness about the fact that Eleanor’s issues are deeper than physical and verbal(possibly) abuse and trauma. I did not see it coming. As I closed the book, I also felt hope flutter in my chest, hope that Eleanor will be able to overcome her issues with her friend( and possible romantic interest ? ) Raymond and counselor.
“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.”
After reading “Eleanor Oliphant “, I am so not fine. I am wrecked in the best and worst way possible.
Verdict: READ IT NOW! If you haven’t read it, you are missing out. Gail Honeyman’s debut is a book is a masterpiece and will stay embedded in your memories for a long time. I would give ELICF 5 out of 5 stars.
About Author: Gail Honeyman wrote her debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, while working a full-time job, and it was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress. She has also been awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award 2014, was longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines, and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. She lives in Glasgow.
Publication Date: January 2018 (first published on May 2017)
Paperback: 383 Pages
Click on the pictures(links) below if you want to buy the book on Amazon.