Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

"I had done such things in the past, tried to be kind, tried to take care, I knew that I had, but that was before. I tried and I had failed, and all was lost to me afterwards. I had no one to blame but myself.”

― Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Gail Honeyman's 2017 debut book, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, took home the Costa Debut Novel Award. The book explores issues of loneliness and isolation while also following Eleanor on her transforming journey to a deeper comprehension of herself and life.

According to the author's interview, it is written from the point of view of an unreliable narrator, but not out of malice or a wish to deceive, as is sometimes the case, but rather as a reflection of the character's lack of self-awareness caused by psychological scars from a traumatic past.

The heavier issues are lightened and contrasted by humour. The work has been described as an important example of "up lit," which refers to uplifting literature that includes stories of love, compassion, and hope. It has also been attributed with increasing public interest in uplifting literature, since the number of up lit novels hitting best-seller lists has increased significantly since its publication.

Synopsis from Goodreads...

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation that they had been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. If she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.

My reaction to the novel...

I couldn't finish it at first since it didn't capture me the same way the prior novels did, so this wasn't a "love at first read." I chose to read another book before deciding to try it again. I read the first chapter of the book after pulling it out of my closet, where I now keep all of my books. Then, all of a sudden, it clicked. I was instantly enamored with this and eager to read the remaining chapters.

I'm intrigued by Eleanor in some manner. Despite the fact that I tend to be social, Eleanor's passionate personality in this novel shines through even when she is alone herself. Every time I finish this narrative, I find myself wanting to learn more about this character and the events that led to her current state. I learned from reading this that she chooses to be alone and is actually quite content with it. Her naivety was obvious, especially when she started interacting and attempting new things with someone who wasn't part of her usual routine and way of life. She doesn't even realize that she has a sense of humor. Her way of thinking simultaneously made me laugh and cry.

While reading this novel, I can't help but think about Eleanor and how she fell in love with the musician. I first thought this book would be a love story, so I was interested to find out how she met the musician and the specifics of their romance. I was really expecting that the main character in this novel would get a makeover because of the descriptions in the first chapter and the way her coworkers treated her. She immediately came to me as a plain, quiet woman who had plenty of secrets to share with the readers. 

You'll also be enthralled by Eleanor's one-sided love for Johnnie, but as I got to know Raymond, I found myself firmly hoping that he would be the one for Eleanor at the book's ending. However, this is not a love story. It's more intricate and surprising than you think. Even though you might first think you know everything about Eleanor, you still need to discover more about her. I could tell how weak she was feeling, especially after reading the chapter from "Bad Days," but I wasn't prepared for what she divulged. I won't go into further detail, though, out of caution so as not to completely ruin the surprise. Eleanor is someone you should learn more about and get to know.

My Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐(4/5)

"Sometimes you simply needed someone kind to sit with you while you dealt with things.”

No man is an island, and we all need someone to stand by our sides, even if they don't say anything, especially while we are going through difficult times. Knowing that someone is close by will make us feel more at ease.

"Although it’s good to try new things and to keep an open mind, it’s also extremely important to stay true to who you really are.”

This is absolutely accurate. When they try something new, like going out with someone who is out of their league, they could periodically lose sight of who they truly are. They continue to do more and want more, forgetting that what they are doing is different from how they used to be.


Disclaimer: Booksreadbyhannel is not a business website. The opinions expressed here are unbiased and based only on my own feelings and reactions while reading the books I featured here in my blog. My reviews reflect my utmost sincerity. I paid for the books I review here out of my own pocket. Books provided by authors and publishers are otherwise specified.