When I was offered the chance to read and review this novel ahead of its publication, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s one that I heard a lot about from fellow bloggers, and the proof came with an impressive list of quotes from other authors. I didn’t expect to get so thoroughly entrenched in this novel, nor to love it as much as I did.
I have always taken great pride in managing my life alone. I’m a sole survivor – I’m Eleanor Oliphant. I don’t need anyone else – there’s no big hole in my life, no missing part of my own particular puzzle. I’m a self-contained entity. That’s what I’ve always told myself, at any rate.
Eleanor Oliphant is in her early thirties. She lives alone, has no friends, and doesn’t really get on with her work colleagues. She has set routines, and dresses for practicality, comfort and convenience (when was the last time you came across a jerkin outside of a work of fantasy / historical fiction!?) and doesn’t want anything else from life.
But two things happen which force her out of her shell – she and a colleague assist a man who has fallen in the street, and she meets the person who might be “the one”. Well, she doesn’t meet him, but she sees him on stage at a gig.
And things slowly begin to change for Eleanor, whether she wants them to or not. But change can be both good and bad, and she finds herself facing some of her personal demons.
Eleanor is a unique character, and I have to admit that (I’m a terrible person) I didn’t really take to her at first. Her colleagues – the only people she has any regular interaction with – find her to be a little difficult, and so did I. Socially inept doesn’t really cover it – she isn’t hostile or mean, and she doesn’t do anything to deliberately antagonise people, but she does come across as being extremely… odd. As I read further, however, it quickly became apparent that something wasn’t quite right with Eleanor, and I wanted to read on and find out her full story.
And there are some incredibly funny moments along the way. Upon see Johnnie Lomand – a singer in a local band – she is quite taken with him, and this prompts her to begin to make herself over so that she’s more acceptable to him when she does meet him. And she doesn’t doubt for a minute that they will meet – she’s going to make sure it happens. And where she starts with her transformation is… well, it’s not the most obvious starting point, and it is hilarious, even as it made me cringe a little as I was reading it. I’ll say no more on this – it’s something that you’ll have to read for yourself to fully appreciate, and I’d hate to spoil it for other readers.
But for all the fun, there are darker elements to the story too. These are handled extremely well, and I think that Honeyman has done an excellent job of highlighting that we often don’t know what a person has been through, or is going through, particularly with someone like Eleanor who is so closed off to the world, and I think it gives a message to be compassionate to those around us.
I absolutely adored this novel! It is warm-hearted and amusing and a little sad, and I’d recommend it to, well, everyone really, but I was reminded of the works of Gavin Extence in particular, and I think that fans of his will lap this up. I seemed to have a bit of a leaky eye problem by the end of the novel.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine will be published on 18 May by Harper Collins – many thanks to Jaime Frost for providing a copy for review.