Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I knew this book had been highly applauded since its release, I had picked it up in a charity shop haul and promptly put it on my bookcase and there it has lingered for some months now but after finishing an epic fantasy I felt the need for a little slice of real life and decided to delve into a book that I hoped very much lived up to the praise I'd heard.
The first thing that struck me about this book was the social inadequacies of our heroine, Eleanor Oliphant, a thirty-year-old single girl living in Glasgow who spends Monday to Friday at her mundane office job and then goes home at the weekend with two bottles of vodka and a Margherita pizza and speaks to and sees no one all weekend. This is described on the book jacket but inside the covers, we discover she finds making conversation with other people difficult, she spends her evenings reading books and listening to the radio. The one event that really highlighted for me how awkward was when she goes to a pub for a drink with a colleague and offers to buy the drinks then before he leaves asks him for the £3.50 for his pint of Guinness back.
There are points in the early pages of the book where Eleanor makes you cringe, so inept is she in the ways of social niceties. She's strange and a little aloof and unfalteringly honest about the things she sees around her, even when sharing her views may be unwelcome. As the pages go on however we begin to identify more familiar emotions, she's lonely, desperately lonely. She's been raised in the care system and with no understanding of affection or parental love. She's had nobody show her any interest and thus has been happy to blend into the background. Her only contact with her family is her weekly phone calls from her 'mummy' who we learn is a complex and at times vile creature.
The beautiful story in Gail Honeyman's novel is a joy to read, Eleanor slowly forms a friendship with her co-worker Raymond when they see an old man collapse in the street and find themselves visiting him in the hospital together. The care and patience with which Raymond pulls Eleanor our of her shell and helps her to explore the world around her is beautiful and is one of the most heartwarming stories I've ever read. The way in which Eleanor begins to realise that her lonely existence may not be all the world has to offer her and that perhaps she can find people who could care about her is an absolute joy to read. It is heartbreaking when we delve beneath the veneer of Eleanor's world to her childhood and her experiences that led her to shut herself away from the world. We want to take her in our arms and shelter her and to make things okay for her.
This book was the Costa Award winner of 2017 for a debut novel and it is absolutely worthy of every plaudit and great review it has received. Touching, emotional and truly unforgettable Eleanor Oliphant is a heroine of our age, the Bridget Jones of the millennium she is funny and honest and strong and yet fragile and vulnerable. Gail Honeyman is an author whose debut has promised a bright future and I'm sure like many anxious readers I'm not alone in eagerly awaiting whatever she may release next.