Eleanor Oliphant seems to be the buzzword of the bookish community recently! As with all books that have received such ebullient praise, I was a little apprehensive about reading it, but Gail Honeyman’s sparkling debut bestseller completely lived up to the hype.
The internet is already resplendent with reviews acclaiming its touching brilliance. So I thought I would take a personal approach to articulate the delightful experience I had in reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
*Warning* May contain minor spoilers
Below are 20 thoughts I had while reading this novel! I would love to hear the ones you can most relate to and your own thoughts on the story, so please do share in the comments…
1. I loved the understated nature of the characters in the novel. None of them achieves fame and glory or conquers evil, yet they are all extraordinary and matter to each other and to us as readers.
She was, quite simply, a nice lady who’d raised a family and now lived quietly with her cats and grew vegetables. This was both nothing and everything. p.112
2. When discussing Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine with friends, family and book club, I have found that however odd Eleanor’s behaviour may initially seem, everyone seems to find a moment they can relate to on an intensely personal level.
For me, it was this makeup counter episode. I too have always hated makeup counters. They make feel self-conscious, inadequate and completely overwhelmed by the conglomeration of products promising a new, better version of me. So this chapter made me laugh out loud and run downstairs to show my Mum, who shares my distaste!
…there was literally more chance of me purchasing weapons-grade plutonium from her. p.143
3. I found Eleanor’s bemusement at popular culture hilarious throughout the book! It adds to the quirkiness of her character too, I felt as though she is something of a relic from a past era.
Afterwards, despite having paid for it, the customers themselves are responsible for clearing away the detritus. Very strange. p.145
4. This simple sentence absolutely devastated me. It is truly moving how Eleanor can be so changed by small acts of human connection and care that she has never received before.
Thank you for making me shiny. p.177
5. In this part of the book, I found Eleanor a little difficult to relate to. A very unsympathetic part of me thought her insensitive and frustrating at times. Maybe my guilt surrounding this is part of Gail Honeyman’s message about how we treat those who are “different”.
“I always doubted her grasp of the basic principles of Value Added Tax…so perhaps it’s for the best.”
“Her husband’s got testicular cancer, Eleanor.”
6. Having said that, Eleanor’s complete social ineptitude is so funny when it is harmless…
Flowers seemed wrong; they’re a love token, after all. I looked in the fridge, and popped a packet of cheese slices into the bag. All men like cheese. p.191
7. Ladies and gentlemen, Eleanor Oliphant, proving that sometimes there is no better alternative to brutal honesty!
I don’t want to accept a drink from you, because then I would be obliged to purchase one for you in return, and I’m afraid I’m simply not interested in spending two drinks’ worth of time with you.
8. The grammar police among you will definitely find a kindred spirit in Eleanor:
“LOL could go and take a running jump. I wasn’t made for illiteracy; it simply didn’t come naturally.’
9. Speaking of Eleanor’s vocabulary, did anyone else’s browser history look like this post-reading? I liked her eloquence though, it felt like part of Eleanor Oliphant’s dogged refusal to conform!
Forget Shakespeare’s Iago and Disney’s Cruella de Vil – Eleanor’s mummy redefines evil from this day forward…
11. I love the lyrical language in Eleanor’s achingly hopeful outlook on life…
“I suppose one of the reasons we’re all able to continue to exist for our allotted span in this green and blue vale of tears is there is always, however remote it may seem, the possibility of change.” p.217
12. The question that most engaged and preoccupied me throughout the novel – what happened to Eleanor in her past?
There’s very little in life that I couldn’t imagine, or brace myself for. p.221
Of all the tragic deaths in literature…
14. Gail Honeyman makes a very powerful exploration of loneliness. Reading the afterword made this even more poignant by giving a sense of scale to the situation of people like Eleanor.
“…loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way.”
I love the simple, understated, genuine goodness of Raymond’s character. This world needs more Raymonds.
16. This incredibly poignant moment when Eleanor is sent flowers by her work colleagues:
They’d been thinking. Of me! p.313
It reminded me that just because a kind gesture is small, it does not have to be insignificant.
17. Even the hardest hearts will have melted when Eleanor gets a new companion:
A woman who knew her own mind and scorned the conventions of polite society. We were going to get along just fine. p.319
18. I take back what I said about Eleanor being insensitive. She has started to reflect the acceptance and kindness shown to her back out to other people, becoming much more empathetic. Now I feel even worse, as I question whether I would have shown her the human sympathy she so desperately needed…
There are all kinds of reasons why they might not look like the kind of person you’d want to sit next to on a bus, but you can’t sum someone up in a ten-second glance.
Yes, Eleanor! I have never cheered a character on so much!
PLOT TWIST!!! I was completely blindsided by the final twist, it is subtle yet altered how I see the rest of the book.
I hope you enjoyed this slightly different take on a book review!
What did you think of the final plot twist? What was your relatable Eleanor Oliphant moment? Let me know in the comments!