Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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Jill's take on Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

We found Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine in our rental in Cape Town. Zac initially picked it up and started reading it. He whipped right through and suggested that I might like it. So, once I finished my book and happily moved on to this one. We didn’t realize that this book was oh so popular and had the movie rights already purchased by Reese Witherspoon. Normally, this would generally be enough to put me off a book, but seeing as I didn’t know until I was into it, I had no choice but to continue (I know how snobby and dickish this sounds. But there’s just a certain kind of story that I imagine Reese Witherspoon to be involved in).

I can see why this debut novel by Gail Honeyman was quickly optioned for the screen. It totally reads like a movie and is so easy to imagine each scene. This book reads so easily, that I had to start over because I felt like I wasn’t really reading it. And so I started over after about 40 pages and I’m glad I did. I missed some things and felt much more entrenched in the story. And it’s a really good story.

The story itself is about Eleanor Oliphant, a woman who finds herself at a bit of a developmental crossroads and sees her through this phase of her life. Eleanor has had a tragic past, which is described in kind of round about ways and is hinted at throughout the book. You don’t get a good round telling of the story until the end. Eleanor has never felt close to anyone in her life and has a difficult time understanding how to relate to others around her. A brief encounter with a man she finds attractive sends her on a mission to improve herself and win his love. Ok, so that sounds formulaic and terrible. But it’s not. The love interest is simply a trope against which Eleanor begins to push herself to get out of the shell she has created and begin to build a different life for herself. Parallel to this, Eleanor begins a very loose friendship with a co-worker when they save someone’s life one day after work.

There’s so much development in Eleanor’s life over the course of the story and I found myself really engrossed in the tale. I understood how she was feeling and I loved the care and honesty with which loneliness and sadness are dealt with in the story. Honeyman doesn’t magically wrap everything up in a nice bow. There’s some setbacks for Eleanor and there is also some real growth. Ultimately this is an uplifting tale of finding comfort in others and overcoming obstacles in your life.

There was no point at which I felt this book had seeped into RomCom or self help territory which it could easily have done. This is a fantastic telling of complicated family history and the impacts trauma can have on our lives. It’s also a tale of learning to accept help from others, even when it seems like help is the last thing you want.

I really loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and think all the accolades are well deserved. I can’t wait to see what Honeyman writes next. I’m still not sure I’ll see the movie.

 

Zac's take on Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I think Jill really said it all in her review, so I’ll keep it brief for you. I read this despite the romcom Reese aspect of it. I tend to stay away from books that are “now a film” or endorsed by celebrities. But we were in a bit of a spot with books and the apartment had one, so I nabbed it. I’m glad I did!

The character is SO strong. Not that she is a strong person. She isn’t really. She is a fucking disaster. Totally NOT completely fine. But her personality is at such odds with those around her, and is so well written that it works. It draws you in and keeps you reading.

Is it a beach read? Yeah kinda. Is that a problem? Not for me anymore.