One of the biggest bestselling debuts for 2017, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman has been winning accolades left, right and centre; just yesterday it won the Costa First Novel Award and you only need to read a few pages before realising why.
30 year old Eleanor Oliphant works in an office and has been doing the same thing every day for years. She lives a lonely existence but is content with her anti-social, regimented routine. She wears the same sensible clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal each lunch time and buys two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Socially unaware, Eleanor is very matter of fact and often speaks her mind, which isolates her from the few people in her life. She notices people’s awkwardness around her but puts it down to their bad manners and poor social skills.
Having moved from one foster carer to another since she can remember, physically Eleanor has everything she requires but her emotional needs have never been met and she has no one to make her see it’s not OK. That is until circumstances force her into the company of Raymond, a bumbling IT geek from her office.
Eleanor has spent years avoiding social interactions at all costs, but her defensive walls come tumbling down when she and Raymond come to the aid of an elderly man after he collapses in the street. As their friendship steadily develops, Raymond helps Eleanor find the courage to confront her tragic past.
For someone who’s misunderstood in her own surroundings, Eleanor is extremely easy to fall in love with. Quirky and endearing, her inner monologue allows us to comprehend her unusual way of thinking but not without constantly surprising us; you never know how she will react to certain situations or what she’ll say next.
We go from seeing Eleanor as a bit of an office oddball from the perspective of her colleagues to witty and charming through the eyes of Raymond. Told in the first person, Gail Honeyman’s skill lies in her ability to allow us to perceive Eleanor’s peculiarity whilst Eleanor herself believes she’s fine and everyone else is weird.
As Eleanor grows in confidence, it’s poignant to observe the impact of love as she gradually opens her heart and learns to trust others. It’s also incredibly refreshing that this love comes in the form of friendship rather than romance. In order to find happiness, Eleanor has to learn to love herself and realise her worth; an important lesson we could all take into consideration.
Despite her distressing childhood and skewed outlook, Eleanor is incredibly relatable to anyone that’s ever felt lonely, introverted or unsure of their place in the world. Gail Honeyman isn’t afraid to explore difficult themes, such as chronic loneliness and mental health issues, with her narrative culminating in a sad, moving twist that will make you realise the extent of Eleanor’s pain.
Interspersed with humour and heart-break, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a beautiful, touching book with a powerful message highlighting the significance of everyday kindness. It’s not often a book truly strikes a chord with me and I know I’m not the only one who’s been moved by Gail Honeyman’s uplifting, unpredictable debut.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is by far one of the best books I read last year and I’d highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already; you’re guaranteed to find a friend in Eleanor Oliphant.