Rating: 4 / 5
Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the subtly hilarious story of a woman’s attempt to recreate herself and improve her life. Eleanor Oliphant’s life has been hard. She was separated from her mother at an early age and grew up in foster care. While she’s always had ahome to live in and food to eat, her emotional needs have never been met – not in the entire 30 years of her life. So, for Eleanor, being alone and having no friends was completely fine, as long as she had dinners for one and a social housing roof over her head.
Eleanor is the strangest woman anyone has ever come across. She wears the exact same outfit every day – it’s practical, why wouldn’t she? She doesn’t contribute to friendly office chats – they’ve nothing to do with her tasks at hand, why would she? She says what she means and doesn’t understand why others never understand her.
Her weekly schedule is utterly rigid and works perfectly fine for her. That is until she sees the love of her life on stage at a concert and must make plans to improve herself in order to be with him. Further, an annoying and unkempt coworker, Raymond, takes a liking to her. When they both witness an old man collapse in the street, Raymond insists they help him, and thus Eleanor’s schedule is shattered.
Through little effort of her own, Eleanor finds herself interacting with people and spending more time out of her apartment than usual. As her life changes, she realizes all that she has missed by living in solitude. Can she make enough changes in her life for the musician to fall in love with her? For her to be truly happy and fulfilled?
Please take caution when reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Sexual assault
- Child abuse
- Self harm
- Death / dying
- Mental illness
I adored Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. The beginning provides a lot of details on the mundane, which makes perfect sense because Eleanor’s life could not be more mundane. As Eleanor branches out and begins trying new things, the story becomes more and more colorful.
The story is told exclusively from the perspective of Eleanor, who is very proper, and very oblivious of normal social queues. She speaks formally at all times, even in her own head. She is absolutely hilarious, and is made even more hilarious by the fact that she has no understanding of other people and the interactions she has with them.
One of my favorite elements in this book is that Eleanor is utterly clueless about pop culture references. She doesn’t even know the song “YMCA”. Following along as she experiences normal things through new eyes is an extremely unique and wonderful aspect of this story.
As the novel progresses, we learn more and more about Eleanor’s past and why she is the way she is. We already know that she grew up in foster care and has since lived alone and with no family or friends. The process of unearthing Eleanor’s secrets is fascinating and leaves you continually wanting more.
Eleanor’s few relationships are key to her story. There’s Mummy, with whom she speaks on the phone once a week – every Wednesday without fail. It’s clear from the jump that Mummy is awful and a huge component of why Eleanor is so odd. There’s Raymond, Eleanor’s new and unwanted pal who smokes and desperately needs a haircut. She unwittingly finds herself spending more and more time with him. And then there’s the musician, who Eleanor doesn’t actually know but is positive is the love of her life. The novel ultimately revolves around her efforts to improve herself for him and how that interacts with other factors in her life.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a fantastic novel that covers very serious topics in a uniquely upbeat way. You won’t be able to guess the direction that Eleanor’s story takes, making it ever exciting. I highly recommend this novel to lovers of light fiction, serious fiction, and psychological thrillers alike.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!