Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman / ★★★★☆
Summary: Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. She’s nearly thirty, works the same office job she has been for the last nine years, and chats with her mother on the phone once a week. When she and her new coworker, Raymond, witness an old man fall in the street and bring him to the hospital, a friendship begins to form and events are set into motion that will rock the mundane course of Eleanor’s existence.
By careful observation from the sidelines, I’d worked out that social success is often built on pretending just a little. Popular people sometimes have to laugh at things they don’t find very funny, or do things they don’t particularly want to, with people whose company they don’t particularly enjoy. Not me. I had decided, years ago, that if the choice was between that or flying solo, then I’d fly solo. It was safer that way.
This book was absolutely delightful and hilarious and sad. It was nothing I expected it to be- which is to say, I expected it to be about some plain-Jane girl working in an office who comes out of her shell with the assistance of a male companion who steps into her life and shakes things up. That is not what this book is at all.
The biggest surprise of this book was Eleanor’s character. Her voice and personality drove this book. Eleanor is extremely socially unaware and has lived the same existence for nearly a decade. Weekdays of work, weekends of loneliness. Her narration was dry, funny, and painfully awkward at times. This book managed to balance hilarity and darkness fantastically, neither of which I had expected to such an extreme degree. Eleanor literally had me in tears of laughter at one point, and despairing the very next.
Most of all, this is a book about friendship and kindness and goodness, and about Eleanor becoming who she was alway meant to be. It’s a very sweet book, and a rather raw book at times. On the surface it’s about a painfully awkward young woman, but beneath it’s something much deeper, darker and traumatic, and the way Honeyman wove them together was very well done. If I have any criticism it’s that the ending was a bit too apt, and I wasn’t very surprised, but this was such a surprisingly wonderful read.
ELEANOR. What a character. She’s painfully awkward to the point of frustration at times, but Honeyman always keeps her sympathetic. She’s also sweet and hilarious, her narration and dialogue dry and witty, which was the most unexpected element of this book for me. Eleanor’s development over the course of the novel, the way she slowly unravels, befriends people, and reveals the contents of her childhood without ever giving a way too much, is done fantastically. I had my suspicions, but Honeyman always kept me on my toes. While the events of this book are relatively commonplace, if this story had been told by anyone other than Eleanor, it would not have been half as entertaining. Her observations on social norms and courtesies are so poignant and comical. This is Eleanor’s story and she is the star.
Raymond was a sweetheart, and Eleanor’s unflattering observations of him – the way she’s disgusted by how he smokes, unimpressed by his kiddish wardrobe, the noisy way he eats, “he really is an annoying man”- are hilarious and real and such a fantastic element of their friendship. I loved how Raymond was anything but a handsome male protagonist, but he’s exactly the kind of goodness required by the world. I love the way their friendship develops under rather strange circumstances and how it deepens, and the only slight allusion to romance. This is a book about friendship and Raymond plays an essential and necessary part, but this is Eleanor’s story.
Everything about the writing of this book is Eleanor’s voice. It’s dry and witty, painfully honest and very misleading. Honeyman’s ability at keeping the mystery of Eleanor’s past at bay while hinting at it and teasing us with it and coming so very close to it and pulling away, is done so well. One thing that particularly stuck out to me is the difference in style in the way Eleanor describes her every day life and situations while she’s in them, and the way the writing switches to something much smoother and fluid and buttery once she goes into a fantasy and how gradually these two elements meet. Honeyman has such a talent.
Was I satisfied?
Yes! This book was a wonderful surprise and one of my funniest reads of the year. Eleanor is fantastic.
I got this book through through the Book of the Month Club, from which you can pick a brand new release every month! If you want to subscribe to Book of the Month, you can use my referral link!