Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine…but not really. her life consists of work – Monday to Friday, with very little in the way of human interaction. Then weekends spent at home, alone, not speaking to a soul from leaving work on the Friday to getting on the bus on Monday morning.
On Friday after leaving work she buys a pizza from Tesco and two bottles of vodka that she drinks throughout the weekend, never getting drunk but in a suitable haze to see her through.
Eleanor’s social skills are extremely limited; she has no filter for her thoughts and her only point of reference is ‘mummy’ who is cruel and vindictive and no longer in her life except for a weekly phone call.
Then three men come into Eleanor’s life…
The first she decides is the man for her: the one she will walk off into the sunset with. So she sets about updating her appearance for the meeting that will change her life, with hilarious consequences.
The second man is Raymond, the IT man at work. They meet when Eleanor’s computer breaks down. Raymond is one of the few people who is not put off by Eleanor’s blunt manner.
The third man is Sammy. When Sammy is taken ill, Eleanor and Raymond help him and the three become friends, resulting in Eleanor’s life opening up and a huge learning curve.
Eleanor is one of the most fabulous creations. Her thoughts on other people and the world around her are totally hilarious.
“I purchased it in a charity shop some years ago, and it has a photograph of a moon-faced man. He is wearing a brown leather blouson. Along the top, in strange yellow font, it says ‘Top Gear’. I don’t profess to understand this mug. It holds the perfect amount of vodka, however, thereby obviating the need for frequent refills.”
But at the same time she is vulnerable and holds dark secrets from the past. We follow her as she tries to come to terms with who she is and how she interacts with the world, with the help of the lovely Raymond. Their relationship is a joy to behold. His small kindnesses making all the difference to a woman who has never been shown any and known only loneliness.
This is such a powerful book, having strong themes of loneliness and heartbreaking sadness but with a huge warmth and tenderness. You’ll laugh out loud on one page and cry buckets on the next. I didn’t want this book to end and was bereft when I had to say goodbye.
Do not miss it. The best book of the year so far.