A Fine Novel
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is a contemporary novel published last year and was a great kick-off for my 2019 year of reading! To say this is Honeyman’s first novel at 40 (a best-seller too!) is impressive to say the least. Part of my motivation for picking this one up off my shelf was because of how well-received it’s been at the library I work at. It was one of the most popular reads at our library last month, and I completely understand why. This is the type of novel that anyone can ease themselves into. Yes, Eleanor’s lexicon is prim, proper, and advanced, but it isn’t overused and doesn’t frustrate the reader, but is instead there to create humour:
“A philosophical question: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? And if a woman who’s wholly alone occasionally talks to a pot plant, is she certifiable? I think that it is perfectly normal to talk to oneself occasionally. It’s not as though I’m expecting a reply. I’m fully aware that Polly is a houseplant.”
Now, to the main premise of the novel – Eleanor Oliphant is a lonely woman in her thirties, a very lonely woman indeed, who finds solace in crossword puzzles and Glen’s vodka. She’s perfectly self-sufficient, but her life lacks something big. Love. Love in all its forms. As a survivor of childhood trauma, Eleanor doesn’t know how to live a ‘normal’, sociable life – that’s until a string of kind acts changes everything.
As well as being beautifully written, Honeyman’s novel balances light and dark with finesse. At times, Eleanor’s story is black and pitiable while other moments are funny and wholesome. I wouldn’t describe any parts of the novel as boring but all there to serve an emotive purpose. It had me laughing a good few times.
Honeyman is great at drawing up characters too. Eleanor is such a multi-faceted character. Some have criticised Honeyman for making her too ‘unrealistic’, but if anything, I feel her quirkiness humanises her. I could definitely imagine there being a few Eleanor Oliphants out there in the world, and if I could, I’d give all of them a big hug! I haven’t seen a lot of fiction written about lonely adults. Loneliness is more often depicted in elderly characters so I loved getting this fresh, eye-opening perspective.
I feel like I could go on for a while looking into Honeyman’s characters but I’d rather keep it brief and to the point. All of them were believable and real and the way they connected with each other never came across as unnatural or forced, to the point where I forgot I was reading a lot of the time because I was so swept up in the story.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine has been a reading highlight of my year and it’s only January! You should do yourself a favour and read this!