I first began reading Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman a few months ago. I used it to past the time on my commute to work, but alas, university was stressful, and I felt guilty for reading anything other than boring journal articles. Once I began to read it again this week, it was completed in two days. I just could not put it down. Dealing with themes of loneliness, the importance of friendship, abuse (both physical and mental) and alcoholism, this book has you both running for the tissues one page and then smiling the next.

DISCLOSURE: This article will contain spoilers, read on at your own risk!

Plot

Eleanor Oliphant lives her life in a cyclical routine. She goes to work Monday to Friday and gets a weekly phone call from her mother on a Wednesday. She goes the whole weekend without speaking to anyone and copes by drinking Vodka. Her routine never differs and she never asks her social worker for the truth behind the fire which caused the burns on her body. One day, she became acquainted with Raymond and her life changed for the better. He suggested she seek medical help and then the truth behind her past and her scars is revealed from her subconscious.

Initially I found this book hard to get into. The monotonous of each chapter mimicked the monotonous life of Eleanor Oliphant. However, as the book progressed it became clear that Honeyman was sophisticatedly revealing dribs and draps of Eleanors past, just as she was beginning to learn about what happened to her.

Loneliness

Eleanor has lived through two abusive relationships in her life. First, the abuse she experienced from her mother as a child and secondly, the domestic abuse from her partner at university. Because of this she has led a sheltered life. She doesn’t have any friends and even her mother whom she speaks to on the phone, is later revealed to be a figment of her imagination. Eleanor is extremely lonely, and this is made clear when her friendship with Raymond opens her horizons to a life full of healthy human interaction.

Maybe it was just me but I initially didn’t second guess why she spent all her free time alone drinking vodka. Perhaps this was because we are seeing the world through Eleanor’s eyes. It wasn’t until Raymond began to explain the world to her, that I realised, hang on, this woman is struggling. The book was extremely well written, depicting the message that sometimes people don’t know to ask for help. It is always worth checking on the person that says nothing.

Counselling

One of the main aims of counselling is to reveal and confront any childhood trauma a person might have. In the second half of this book, we follow Eleanor on her journey to begin to confront her past. This results in her uncovering the truth behind the fire that she almost died in. It is revealed that her mother caused the fire killing both herself and Eleanors younger sister, leaving young Eleanor to be passed around the care system.

Now, at thirty years old, she is diagnosed with depression. Honeyman writing this novel in this era I think is so important. People don’t always realise that you can be suffering from events that happened years ago. Phrases such as ‘you need to move on’ are applied and I think this novel perfectly highlights the importance of receiving essential help with dealing with your emotions after a traumatic event.

Overall thoughts

Despite Eleanor Oliphant coming across as rude, she is overall a misunderstood person. Thoughout the book I grew to love her and empathise with her. She never had a normal upbringing and therefore never developed a normal outlook of the world. In some ways I thought her to be rather childlike and innocent, which only led to me sympathising with her more.

Loneliness is a huge issue in the world and it does not discriminate. Within this book, loneliness is depicted as the result of childhood trauma, however this isn’t the only cause to loneliness. This book has opened my mind to pay particular attention to those around me. If Raymond hadn’t persisted with Eleanor, then she wouldn’t have received the help she needed, and perhaps she would’ve remained lonely and in distress her whole life.

I hoped you’ve enjoyed my review of Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. I highly recommend reading it.

This the first book I have reviewed on my blog. Let me know in the comment section how you think I did. I love constructive criticism so don’t be afraid to help me improve!

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6 Comments

  1. Hello there. I love your review of the book. Eleanor is one beautiful weird cookie. This book has been on my top 10 books of 2018 since I read it. It holds the third place. I loved the book so much and fell in love with Eleanor since the first page, but to me the most interesting was the men in Eleanor’s life. Raymond and Sammy, even the singer she thought she was in love with. If it wasn’t for them Eleanor would stay in her little shell of vodka and frozen pizza. Thank you gor sharing your thoughts.

  2. I LOVED this book! I think it really had a powerful message and I could definitely relate.

    I picked it up on a whim in my local Sainsbury’s as I had run out of books to read at home, so glad I did!

  3. This book seems amazing!!! I’d love to be able to read this it just seems like something realistic and I love books like that!

    • It is. Some of the themes in this book are too common in this country. It breaks my heart that there are people out there suffering from loneliness

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