Book Review - Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman


I cannot tell you how excited I am to be telling you about this book. I mentioned it in June's monthly favourites, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. In fact, this book has ruined a lot of other books for me. I’ve read seven books since then, and I haven’t been able to enjoy them as much as I normally would. I know I’m talking this book up a lot, but I truly loved it.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman centres around Eleanor Oliphant, a woman no one would bat an eye at. She is a loner with a rigid structure in life and a mysterious past. Through the opening paragraphs, we see a quiet acceptance of the mundane: go to work, be alone, eat the same meals, drink away your misery on weekends and repeat. As she goes about her life, Eleanor makes nuanced observations about human nature that are amusing but entirely true (why do women wear heels they aren’t comfortable in?). There are questions raised about her father, what kind of institution her verbally abusive mother is kept in, and what caused her physical scars, but Eleanor’s details about her background are kept safely in the past.  When her routine life is upset, what memories from the past will come up? Will she be able to seek comfort in a life that is so different to her own?

I'm cringing at the raspberry stain on the cover too. 

The tone of this novel is fantastic. You can really get in Eleanor’s head and see life from her perspective. It is sad but also beautiful in a way. Some people really do live the way Eleanor does. There is a slow unravelling of introducing new characters and explaining the past in a way that pulls the reader in. I genuinely could not put it down. It took me three sitting to read the whole thing. I finished it on a train and the old man sitting next to me asked me what I thought. Then the person across the aisle from us joined the conversation! If that doesn’t prove how wonderful this book is, I don’t know what will. I’ve passed it to my parents, and they both loved it as well.

An interesting note about the novel is its connection to other works of literature. A scene with a social worker was reminiscent of Jane Eyre, and I wondered if Eleanor was making stories up based on Jane Eyre. There is a lot of fire imagery (including on the cover of the novel) that makes sense only through that slow unravel. Reading this back, I don’t think this review does the novel justice. I truly love it. Honeyman managed to create a character that is quirky and unrelatable to many people but also manages to teach readers an important lesson. The biggest theme in this novel is kindness. Everyone needs kindness in their life. Kindness has the capability of changing lives. I’m rating this book a 5/5, meaning it is added to my very small list of favourite books.

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