This post contains affiliate links.
Eleanor Oliphant lives a perfectly fine existence. She has a job, a home, clothes on her back, food in her cupboards. She lives a life of routine, order and simplicity. She has a regular, Monday to Friday job as an accounts administrator – on Friday nights she eats a supermarket pizza and drinks her allocation of vodka. She lives a solitary life and most weekends doesn’t speak to another soul until work rolls around again on Monday.
There are books that transport you to other worlds, other times – they draw you in and take you on amazing journeys. This is not one of those books. There are books with characters with whom you fall in love or lust, or simply wish they would pop out of the book – they are so interesting, intriguing, alluring (I’m looking at you, Jamie Fraser). This is not one of those books. There are books that touch you deep inside, challenge your perceptions, stay with you long after you have closed them. This is not really one of those books either. But somehow I found I could not resist this book and it’s main character, the quirky Eleanor Oliphant.
(Before I go any further I must disclose that I didn’t actually read this book – I listened to it as an audiobook with Audible. The narrator was Cathleen McCarron – such a warm, syrupy voice, almost soothing on your ears. I still have no idea how fiction audiobook narrators do all those different voices and remember which belongs to whom. It’s incredible!)
Eleanor is quirky. Different. Odd. She’s the sort of person you might pass on your morning commute, sit next to on the bus or maybe you work with an “Eleanor”. I don’t like to admit it but if I knew an “Eleanor” I imagine I would remark to someone, “she’s so weird.” She’s straightforward, not comfortable with most social interactions, doesn’t quite pick up on body language or simple social cues. She doesn’t wear make up and her clothes are practical rather than fashionable or flattering. She doesn’t look forward and she tries not to look back. She just is. That is until she comes across the man of her dreams, The Musician….
“He was light and heat. He blazed. Everything he came into contact with would be changed. I sat forward on my seat, edged closer. At last. I found him.”
This chance encounter is the catalyst to propel Eleanor from her simple existence. OK – “propel” may be an exaggeration but life certainly does change for Ms. Eleanor Oliphant. Her completely fine life starts to shift and she navigates new experiences with all the awkwardness you would expect.
The story is told from Eleanor’s point of view and her thoughts are so deliciously detailed with brilliant, funny or thought-provoking observations. There are so many simple, day to day happenings that are described in her frank, to-the-point manner but somehow this is not boring. As a character, she really grew on me. It really snuck up on me how much I liked Eleanor, I found myself smiling at her remarks and nodding along. I can definitely see a little Eleanor in myself.
The story is peppered with memories from Eleanor’s childhood – unpleasant memories – and even more unpleasant weekly phone calls with “mummy”. There is a scruffy IT chap called Raymond, an elderly gentleman who has a fall, a glamorous hairdresser – all of these characters are so, so real. I can’t remember another book I read that painted a picture of such real people, people you can imagine knowing in your own life. For me, this was one of my favourite things about Gail Honeyman’s writing.
Yes, there is a twist at the end. No, there is no passionate love scene. There are uncomfortable bits, heart-breaking bits and bits that will make your heart smile. If nothing else, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine has given me a wee reminder that everyone has battles or back stories that you may never know. Everyone deserves a little kindness, no matter how odd.
You can buy the hardcover, paperback, Kindle or Audiobook here: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
Or if, like me, you are far too buy to read books and prefer listening to audiobooks, sign up for Audible here: Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks
Have you read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine? What did you think? Did you like it? Loathe it? Is there an audiobook you can suggest I check out?