I’ve been seeing this book everywhere for months, and was so happy that I finally got around to reading it, and I can definitely see what all of the fuss was about. Eleanor Oliphant lives a strictly regimented, monotonous, but ‘fine’ life. She has never questioned her life that consists purely of going to work, and drinking at the weekends, with nobody to talk to apart from her mother who calls her once a week, and the social workers who visit every once in a while. However, when she meets Raymond, who work in IT, and they help save the life of a stranger in the street, she begins to question her life, how she got there, and what it will take for her to get better.
I absolutely loved Eleanor’s character. She was so complex and interesting, and although she clearly suffers a great deal with trauma, anxiety issues and a lack of social skills, her voice is so unique and at times downright hilarious that it was a pleasure to read the book, even when if she is spending entire pages explaining how boring and lonely her life is. This doesn’t mean that you don’t feel bad for Eleanor. Her life is the same everyday, and she has nobody to talk to, she doesn’t even think she needs anyone to talk to, but what I liked was that even at the start of Eleanor’s story, before she sets out on her journey of recovery and self-discovery, is that there is a quiet strength to her. She has lived through horror, and now she is living through loneliness, and she deals with it in the only way that she can, which is building an armour around her. Even if we don’t relate to her specific problems and experiences, I’m sure every reader can relate to the way that Eleanor deals with her problems and anxieties, by simply ignoring them and pretending that she doesn’t need whatever she is missing out on.
I loved reading her development through relationships with people around her. Raymond was a wonderful character to read, and I loved how we see Eleanor thinking of him as nothing but a lazy, wasteful and immature man, to thinking of him as a friend and genuinely valuing him. She takes this journey with many people in her life, such as the people in her work, and so the book is a beautiful and heartbreaking exploration of Eleanor’s loneliness and the way that society plays a role in further isolating those who struggle socially, but ends with hopefulness that Eleanor can recover with the help of those around her, and lead a fulfilling and fruitful life that makes her more than ‘just fine’.
The only issues that I had with this book lay with the storyline of Eleanor trying to piece together the traumas that she experienced as a child. Without spoiling this story, the main issue that I had with this was that it only really became a plot point towards the end of the novel. Although we know from early on that Eleanor has had horrible experiences, it just isn’t a concern of hers. This is understandable from the context of her character arc, but I would have liked for there to have been hints as to what the story was, and elements of foreboding rather than simply dumping the story on us out of the blue in the final chapters of the book. In a strange sense, I felt like the book could have been even more striking if it had lacked the dramatic ‘tragic backstory’ element, as I felt a little like Honeyman shifted the story away from a character-focused story to a story that relies on shocks and plot twists to keep you hooked. By the time I found out what had happened to Eleanor, I found that I didn’t really care that much, cause I was too interested in the rest of her character.
This book made me laugh, cry, and stayed with me for long after I finished it. I found it easy to read and loved the strong voice of the main character Eleanor, and how it drove the story forward and kept me hooked.