Monday, 26 February 2018

Review of: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars 

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time…

First, we had Adrian Mole, then Bridget Jones and now Eleanor Oliphant. It’s all in the voice. Anyone who watched The Bridge and was fascinated by the character of Saga will recognise that Eleanor is on the autistic spectrum. Honeyman manages to capture this authentic and poignant voice consistently, which is impressive in itself. Eleanor is fully functioning in many ways, but she doesn’t understand or do social niceties, doesn’t understand the reason for or tell white lies, she ‘tells it how it is’ and pays the price for it with sniggers and cold-shouldering on all sides.

Themes of loneliness, alienation and the struggle to fit in – we’ve all experienced these to some extent – form the humanitarian reach of the book. Whilst Eleanor’s personal take on life is extreme because of her condition (and upbringing), we’ve all been there. Take, for example, the title of the book – we’ve all said we’re ‘fine’ at some point, when we’re not, when in truth we’re sobbing inside or desperate for someone to listen to our fears or give us a big hug. But with Eleanor, everything is that much harder. She’s got no supportive family and grew up in foster homes. She’s disfigured with a scar (externally and internally). We know there was a fire in her past and through tiny reveals as the story progresses, we get to know the deeper damage done in her childhood involving a cold and deviant mother.

Already in her thirties, Eleanor seems to grow up and blossom in this story: we see her explore kindness, discover joy in simple things such as the touch of a hand, a haircut, kitten heels instead of 'versatile' Velcro shoes. She starts to become part of things rather than always observing and being excluded on the side-lines.

The themes are handled with great tenderness, wit and panache, but Eleanor’s real journey is about discovering love, where she least expects it. She and a work colleague, the unrefined Raymond, are involved in a simple act of kindness. They help get an elderly man to hospital when he falls in the street. From this one act follows a string of new connections for Eleanor – the stranger’s family, parties, makeover appointments and new routines in her life as Raymond keeps the connection between them going.

It’s Eleanor’s view of the world in this book that is both refreshing, funny and heart-breaking. Those three words probably sum up the feel of the book. It will make you cry! Highly recommended.
 
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All books can be read in any order 
(including Inside the Whispers (Bk 1) and Lost in the Lake (Bk 2) which are also in a series)
  •  Over 450,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  #1 Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • No Longer Safe  #1 in 'Crime Noir' [30,000 sold in the first month]
Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017