Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine, or is she? I have gone through several reviews for this book since I finished reading it. I must agree; the last time I saw such conflicting reviews of a book was Hanya Yanagihara’s book, A Little Life.
I agree with the naysayers that the protagonist, Eleanor Oliphant, seems to be a contradicting individual in some chapters. But, in some sense, I could relate to the character in more ways than I can imagine.
Perhaps it was a glimpse in Eleanor’s work-life on the first page that sold me. Or the revelation later on that she was in Accounts Receivable (I know, accounting is a pretty boring life, sometimes). Maybe it’s how she’d spend the weekends alone and not speak to a single soul until she resumed work on Monday.
Eleanor is a back-office worker, where she has held the same job position for about nine years. Hers is a routine life, where she goes to work, breaks for lunch on her own, and later leaves for home in the evening.
Eleanor spends her lunch hour eating by herself, reading the newspaper, and filling the crosswords. In the evenings, she goes home, makes her usual pasta with pesto and salad. The evening is capped with a book read or watches something on television. The only variants to this routine are Wednesday evening phone calls with her mother and on Friday when she gets pizza and some alcoholic drinks.
She does not mingle with her colleagues, maybe for the occasional greetings, which aren’t that often. In fact, her colleagues make fun of her, and Eleanor is quite aware of that. But to her, she doesn’t mind.
You see, Eleanor is quite judgemental and isn’t accustomed to social norms where one needs a group of individuals in life to banter with or talk to when you’re lonely. The only people she talks to outside of the office are the social worker when they visit, which isn’t often the local store owner where she buys her shopping.
To her, she is completely fine. Life is simple; she has a job, can pay her expenses, and is well-versed in budgeting and planning her life. What more could she need?
First, Eleanor realizes to please her mother, she needs a man- one with manners, is well respected, and all that. This revelation leads to Eleanor’s character growth when she meets a musician who catches her attention.
Eleanor also realizes that she needs to change her lifestyle to be a noticeable and potential mate for this musician. The makeover includes changing her dressing and embracing makeup to cover part of the burn on her face.
She also becomes friends with a new colleague in the office, Raymond. Their friendship starts to flourish when they save an older man, Sammy, who collapses on the streets.
I don’t want to spoil much of the plot by giving out the whole storyline. Why did I love this novel? Well, for starters, Eleanor is fixated on a musician whom she thinks is perfect for her. She stalks him on Twitter and even manages to enter into his building and hang around his door, trying to learn more about it (stalker alert). Eleanor concocts a plan on how to meet with the musician in an orchestrated magical moment finally. But when the time comes, she realizes that she’s been daydreaming and that guy will never notice her.
Next comes the depression mode from this realization, which leads to suicidal attempts. But she has grown close to Raymond, who takes care of her during this episode. He also advises her to seek help for her mental health. He provides her with the friendship she never knew she needed.
I loved the fact that this book has touched on loneliness, depression, and child abuse and trauma. We are just beginning to talk about loneliness and how it does a number on so many people.
“These days, loneliness is the new cancer–-a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.”
― Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
The character development is also quite visible- it reminded me of Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory. Eleanor grows from being entirely ignorant about the outside world and other people’s feelings to an empathetic individual and is finally ready to seek help.
All this time, Eleanor Oliphant thought she was completely fine, but she kind of is fine at the end of the book. Still, I somehow feel like the protagonist was missing something, something I cannot pinpoint. Don’t get me wrong, she is a funny character with a high personal finance sense. I also loved the ending, but I am just not fully satisfied with the character.
My ★ Rating 4.4
Goodreads ★ Rating 4.28 (as of October 2020)