Review: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine By Gail Honeyman

“In the end, what matters is this: I survived”

Eleanor Oliphant has the most simplest life on earth. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. She also has a house plant called Polly. She never misses anything in her carefully planned life and sticks to routines. The trouble is, some times when you miss nothing you are actually missing something if not everything.

Her good hearted nature gets her into trouble one day when she carries out an act of kindness. This forces her to learn new social aspects of a reality she is not a part of. She has to find the courage to dress better, make conversation and even meet new people. Everything that is not normally fitted in her timetable. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything. For her, this is a huge step that she must over come. Will the changes still make her fine?

BookPub thought this book was a lesson to be learned. It is not easy for people to put their self into a social situation they are not comfortable with. There are even days where you would feel like you don’t want to talk to anyone but for some people this is an issue they are unaware of. Eleanor Oliphant is not an easy personality to understand at first. There are some reviews on GoodReads that have mentioned a lack of engagement through some of the book which has not done the book any favours. There are many questions pointing at Honeyman: Why she doesn’t go out anywhere other than work? or what were the events that really scarred Eleanor? Honeyman explained exclusively to Waterstones, “I chose not to dwell on the details of Eleanor’s childhood in the book – that’s not the part of her story that I wanted to focus on. The important thing, for her, is that she comes to acknowledge what has happened in her past and begins to move on from it. Despite everything, she’s made a life for herself, she’s survived; the book focuses on how she learns how to really live” which really reflects on the last lines (quotes above). There is one review on the website that seems pointless commenting how she didn’t use a phone but she used twitter to harbour her adolescent crush on a singer. The important point here is that Honeyman is delivering the message of loneliness.

Studies have concluded that chronic loneliness increases our risk of an early death by 14%. There are also significant studies that in nowadays, there is an increase in loneliness among those who use social media despite having lots of friends. The character grew, Honeyman explains in a Guardian interview , out of a newspaper article about the problem of loneliness. The article had also highlighted this one interviewee had not spoken to anyone all weekend until Monday morning. A point to think about would be the lock down because some people live alone therefore have no choice in who they speak to. Others would rather be separated from the world but this is mentally unhealthy. Honeyman shows the readers that people like Raymond are the people like yourselves that is wondering if you are okay and have someone to talk to, not because they pity you. “I started to think how could that be the case, and I realised there were lots of ways people could end up leading that sort of life through no fault of their own” Honeyman told The Guardian. For Eleanor to open up to Raymond shows that she has courage, bravery and an open mind to change despite what others may perceive of her. The transformation in the book is a much deeper connection the reader eventually picks up on.

There were some real charms included in the book. The funniest part of the book was when she went to get a bikini wax. It was relatable to the feminine readers as she then went on into a shop and purchased a whole outfit that the shop ladies suggested. You can just imagine her walking out as a walking advertisement but makes you think: why don’t I try this? This showed some feminine perceptions internally and what people perceive of her in terms of appearance. People, through the fault of social media, try to make their profiles look nothing like how people might see you in every day life. Things look perkier than normal? The fact that she had to go and make these changes were very good for her but also made you wonder if this would cause later imagery issues but it made her character feel raw and real. For Eleanor, this is never the intention to over think anything.

When she met Raymond, we saw a humorous, slightly dominant and self-pitying side to her. Honeyman demonstrates that there are normal, considerate men like Raymond. He offers to take her to chat with his mother while they drink tea. They both also develop a relationship with the family and visit on the elder man’s birthday. At first, the ending did seem like the two would get together which would have been nice but it was relieving that they were just friends. Eleanor’s problems with her mother and within herself are so complex, Honeyman would have been over complicating the story and would have lost sight on the aim of the book.

The ending of the book was hopeful and triumphant. Despite the highs and lows Eleanor feels as a person, she had people there to help her get through it because she was willing to let them. It made you smile because she had found some sort of new beginning. You were left feeling happy about her and proud of Raymond for being a good friend.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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