My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
“I am a self-contained entity.”
Thirty-year old (Miss) Eleanor Oliphant lives her life by a strict routine. Monday to Friday, her 8.30 to 5.30 job as an accounts clerk in a graphic design firm fills in her waking hours. On Wednesday night, a 15-minute phone call from “Mummy” will leave her exhausted and seeking the oblivion of sleep. And on Friday evening, there is a pizza from Tesco to look forward to, and vodka. Lots of vodka. Often she doesn’t see another human being from Friday night until going back to work on Monday, but Eleanor is fine with that, absolutely fine. She doesn’t really need anyone else in her life. After all, she has a house to clean, Polly the houseplant to water, and vodka to keep those dark doors in her mind firmly closed.
But Eleanor’s life is about to change when her computer at work breaks down and the IT guy drops into her office to fix it. Meet Raymond, a thirty-something scruffy man who just doesn’t get Eleanor’s hints that she really is not in the mood for chit-chat. Instead, annoyingly, he insists on walking to the bus stop with her, as if she was an ordinary person, not the office oddball people whisper about. When an elderly stranger collapses in front of them, Eleanor reluctantly helps Raymond take care of him. Against her better judgment, mind you. Little does she know that this one incident will change Eleanor’s life – and routine – forever.
I cannot adequately express how much I adored this book! It was love at first page! I laughed out loud, I shed some tears, and most of all, it left a warm fuzzy feeling with me all day as I heard Eleanor’s voice in my head (ok, that sounds a little bit crazy, but I mean that in a good way). Eleanor’s voice is the most refreshing thing I have read all year! A cross between A Man Called Ove and The Rosie Project, this damaged, judgmental and totally honest thirty-year-old woman wormed her way into my heart immediately, and I looked forward to every minute I could spare to keep reading. I started highlighting the passages that made me laugh out loud, or ponder life, or those where I would throw a punch into the air, exclaiming: Yes! Exactly! as the ever honest Eleanor states it just as it is. How often have I thought exactly the same thing, only for social convention to hold me back actually voicing it. It was so liberating! When I found that I was drowning in a sea of highlighted pages I realised how very, very much this book spoke to me.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is not all fun and games, though, as it explores the effects of childhood trauma and people’s reactions to those who may not quite fit societal norms.
“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.”
Step by step, we get to know Eleanor through her “good days”, “bad days” and “better days”. Bittersweet and deeply insightful, Honeyman has created a character so damaged that she has long given up hope of ever being loved – or being able to love.
“I was thirty years old, I realised, and I had never walked hand in hand with anyone. No one had ever rubbed my tired shoulders, or stroked my face. I imagined a man putting his arms around me and holding me close when I was tired or upset; the warmth of it, the weight of it.”
Eleanor’s journey of self-discovery is as touching as it is humorous – and there are indeed a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in this book.
“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.”
Warning: Eleanor’s honesty is infectious. As I found out when my fingers typed out an email stripped of the polite word-play that usually disguises the issue at hand in political correctness – I only just managed to wrench my index finger away from the ‘send” button in time. I guess my circle of friends and colleagues may not be ready for such an Eleanor Oliphant-esque moment of truth quite yet. But how liberating it may have been!
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine has definitely been one of my favourite reads this year and will make it on my all-time favourites list. I am indescribably grateful to the Goodreads community for recommending this gem of a story, as I probably would not have picked it up otherwise – and what a loss this would have been indeed. This book was everything I look for in a book: tender, touching, funny, quirky, heart-breaking, heart-warming, inspiring and just totally and utterly GOOD! Reading it felt like a warm hug by a good friend whilst pouring your heart out to them. This is apparently Gail Honeyman’s debut novel – amazing! I can’t wait to read more from this talented author in future!
Grief is the price we pay for love, so they say. The price is far too high.
You can make anything happen, anything at all, inside a daydream.
I suppose one of the reasons we’re able to continue to exist in our allotted span in this green and blue vale of tears is that there is always, however remote it may seem, the possibility of change.
Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins Publishers Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel, and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.