Book Review: Gail Honeyman, “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine”

I’ve been wanting to read Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine for quite some time now, but never got around to it until recently (thank you transatlantic flight). From the moment Eleanor introduced herself in her own quirky manner, I was hooked. It’s not too often you find characters like Eleanor in the typical novel. She’s an eccentric oddball who misses many social cues and always says what’s on her mind, and not in the cringy way many books try to spin as “cute”. Eleanor is simply Eleanor, and that’s what makes her so endearing.

However, Eleanor is also lonely. Once she leaves work on Friday afternoon, it is rare she speaks to anyone until she returns on Monday morning. She fills her time with routine, vodka, and phone calls from mummy. She is also haunted by a childhood trauma that unravels itself between good days and bad days as the story progresses. Though this seems like the recipe for a tale of tragic means, Eleanor finds redemption in the most unlikely way.

After an old man collapses in the street, Eleanor is prompted to help him by fellow colleague and IT man, Raymond. It is from this point onward that Eleanor experiences what she’s never known before: true friendship and kindness. In the beginning, Eleanor labels Raymond as a bumbling illiterate sort but soon learns to set aside her first glance judgments of others.

What’s so special about Raymond, I think, is that he’s not a typical sort of character you see either. He’s an average guy with a genuine heart ( a characteristic Honeyman has said reflects the people of Glasgow, where the novel is set). I also enjoy the relationship between Raymond and Eleanor. It bypasses the romantics and strictly focuses on the power of platonic friendships, which is a refreshing change of pace.

Overall, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a charming novel that is a joy to read. Many have described it as “up-lit” and I couldn’t agree more. Eleanor is one of those characters that feels real and will have you wishing she was. I even found myself wishing I could go out and befriend her myself. It also made me think that we all might have an Eleanor in our lives, but haven’t noticed, and maybe it’s time we should. People shouldn’t have to go through life lonely, and, as this book proves, a little kindness can change that.

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