ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE

by Gail Honeyman

A young woman’s well-ordered life is disrupted by the I.T. guy from her office.

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1 positive comments

4 neutral comments

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  • Four books away from my 2018 reading goal! Just devoured "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" (excellent book!), what next? 👀 📖
  • This is the book we can’t put down in 2018 via @stylistmagazine https://t.co/3uAkJLQYLW #BAMBReadersAwards
  • Gail Honeyman's Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine crowned the public's book of the year https://t.co/Wix1hq46yR
  • .@StylistMagazine: This is the book we can’t put down in 2018 - #BAMBReadersAwards @booksaremybag https://t.co/VAbdL2rSqy
  • I spent the last few days rereading one of my favorite books from the last year--ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FIN… https://t.co/s3KFTfWQQw
  • 14 positive comments

    6 neutral comments

    10 negative comments

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    What people are saying on Amazon (sample)

    • What a great title. The central idea of the story is Eleanor’s growth from not fine at all to nearly fine—or close enough so the story ends well because we readers see that path out ahead of her. We leave Raymond, a perfect foil to Eleanor’s constricted persona, as a possibility, not a certainty. Nice … so un-cliché.Speaking of cliché, it would have been so easy to drench this story in it. Honeyman manages to get through it without cliché and in first person. Like the old story of the gifted athlete who was asked how he made love and responded, “Standing up … in a hammock.”Eleanor is an engaging character from the first page, pathetic in her many strictures at first. But she's so bright and funny without realizing it, we like her anyway. We watch the strictures strain and break as the story moves along. She’s bottled up in her preconceptions through the first half of the book. If Honeyman had pushed it just a little further, Eleanor would have become a repeating inanity. But at Sammy’s funeral, finally, she felt terrible for Sammy and his family … “Tears came, and the more I tried to fight them, the more they came.” To me, that initiated Eleanor’s growth.Also, I’m a sucker for good writing. How in-character of Eleanor to describe Donald Trump’s favorite filet o’ fish as a “square of indeterminate white fish, which was coated in bread crumbs and deep fried and then inserted between an overly sweet bread bun, accompanied, bizarrely, by a processed cheese slice, a limp lettuce leaf and some tangy white slime which bordered o obscenity.” Honeyman mines high dudgeon for great humor again and again.Writing in first person has become popular in the last decade, possibly in keeping with people's intense interest in their own inner workings. First person is difficult to do well because all the information the reader gets is from the protagonist. There is no way to vector in on a situation from multiple points of view. Therefore, stress on the protagonist. Honeyman turns the disadvantage on its head by writing such a compelling main character that we never get tired of seeing the world through her eyes. In the first half of the book, Eleanor manages to let the reader know just how distorted her view of the world is but succeeds in making the reader understand that she is oblivious. High art, indeed.Jaded a reader as I am, I have not had fiction force me to stay awake well beyond midnight in more than a year. I finished Eleanor at 2:30 am.
    • There has been a wonderful glut recently of captivating book titles featuring quirky characters (A MAN CALLED OVE, THE CURIOUS CHARM OF ARTHUR PEPPER, LILLIAN BOXFISH TAKES A WALK, BRITT MARIE WAS HERE), a lot of which are of a similar genre that I love. Now I can add Eleanor Oliphant to that list. Her name got my attention first but the story proved addictive. A 30 year old woman who faced terrible adversities up until her university graduation. She found a job and regulated her life in a way that allowed her to exist. But not live. She didn't know how. There is dialogue between characters but the most insightful parts are when we are reading Eleanor's thoughts and see how, as the plot unfolds, she is faced with decisions and choices that upend her very existence. I can't say more or I'll spoil it for you. It is endearing, sad, wry, funny. And so much more. A stunning first novel by Gail Honeyman.
    • This is a book club review, with very little summary of the book itself. Our book club read this book as our February book club. Our book club rates books on readability, likability, quality, and of course, discussion merit. Eleanor Oliphant ended up being in our top favorite book club reads of all time, hence the five star rating.Eleanor Oliphant is a dark comedy about a woman's journey into finding her path, to opening up, and to facing her emotions/head/past. It's difficult to give a summary of this book that does not include spoilers, which I believe could take away from the beauty of this book. However, due to the dark nature of this book, there may be triggers here for some readers (please see very bottom note with spoiler triggers).As a book club read, this book rated very high, an 8 of out 10, because of the amount of discussion that came from it. We were truly invested in this discussion - members shed tears, laughed, hugged... it was a wonderful book to discuss. We talked for hours and hours, and eventually ran out of time. We rarely have so much discussion with books that is so deep and meaningful. And everyone agreed that the book was likable despite the dark subject matter. The book is so incredibly funny and sweet, that it makes the hard topics just a bit easier. As far as quality, the book is far from flawless. Individual ratings were the book in general were about a 6, so a bit lower. But as far as a book club selection, the book was a great deal of fun and very worthy of a group discussion.The book takes place in Scotland, which made for a fun and lively theme, and a Scottish potluck. This book, surprisingly, has a LOT of food mentions, so there was plenty of recipes to select from. Everyone enjoyed eating the foods that Eleanor and the other characters mention in the book.Overall, this book is recommended for book clubs!***SPOILER TRIGGER WARNINGS*** I so often get asked for triggers, I just share these for book club reviews now. After all, what may be fine for the individual reader is not always great in a book club/group discussion. But, of course, triggers are also spoilers, so please do not read on if you do not want that. I will also add the disclaimer that none of these triggers were an issue for our book club, and no one had any problems with the subject matter. We include these strictly as a warning for other book clubs. Topics included: Childhood abuse and trauma, murder, death, suicide topics, alcoholism, and mental health issues.
    • No, Eleanor Oliphant is not completely fine. She isn’t even fine. She’s angry, super critical of everyone and everything, and decidedly an unlikable piece of work. She’s also damaged but you won’t know the severity of her damage until the book’s ending. She has a telephone conversation with her Mummy once a week and it’s fairly clear that this adult daughter is still tied to mum’s apron strings. She has poor social skills and seems to exist on frozen pizza and vodka. Eleanor has a strong dislike for the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and believes it would probably be broadcasted in hell, without breaks, where the audience would be forced to watch and listen for eternity. The very worst sinners, the child molesters and murderous dictators, would have to perform such music. Eleanor has few friends, one being a young man from her workplace named Raymond. They go out together but, in Eleanor’s view, he’s just a temporary convenience who has to pay his share of pub drinks. Her main romantic interest is a man she’s never met, a musician named Johnnie Lomond. She dreams about him and, at one point, makes a surreptitious visit to his apartment in hopes of catching a glimpse of him. Eleanor is convinced that one fine day they will meet, he’ll fall desperate in love with her, and they will live happily ever after. Personal detail about Eleanor’s past life emerges slowly as the plot moves forward like an onion being peeled, one layer at a time. Her hands are damaged by ecxzema and we learn about a scar on her face but not what caused it. We also learn that she had once been married and that her husband had committed some kind of physical damage on her. More than once I was tempted to toss this book into my recycle bin but I soldiered on. The seemingly universal acclaim for this book kept me reading however, so I trusted that a favorable chance of pace would soon emerge. Sure enough, about the middle of the book, the tide begins to change. At the request of her employer Eleanor begins twice a week conferences with a woman counselor named Marie. It isn’t easy for her but she eventually comes to term with her past, also aided in large part due to her growing friendship with Raymond. The setting for the story is Glasgow and there are a number of “Scottish-isms” scattered throughout the text but you shouldn’t have great difficulty understanding their meaning because of the context. There is a note on the back cover that says Soon to be a Major Motion Picture produced by Reese Witherspoon. When I read that a thought occurred to me: the person who writes the screenplay will have a real challenge on his/her hands because most of novel’s text is written in the first person with Eleanor as an unreliable narrator.
    • Gail Honeyman’s charming, quirky, and resilient Eleanor Oliphant might just be one of my favorite characters I’ve met in a long time. Eleanor’s transformation from the woman she was in the beginning to the stronger, improved version of herself in the end was incredibly sad to read but also uplifting and inspiring at the same time.“I do exist, don’t I? It often feels as if I’m not here, that I’m a figment of my own imagination. There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock.”Eleanor Oliphant is painfully socially inept and completely not attuned to social decencies, an outcome of her horrendous childhood. She spends her weekdays working in the finance department of a graphic design company and avoiding her judgmental co-workers and her weekends drinking the liter or two of vodka she purchases from her local convenience store. Her life is regimented, structured, and very, very boring. The monotony of her life interrupted when she and the new IT guy, Raymond, help an elderly man who passed out on the sidewalk after work. These chain of events and a little bit of fate take Eleanor on an emotional journey she wasn’t planning on taking but one she has needed for a very long time.“My phone doesn’t ring often–it makes me jump when it does–and it’s usually people asking if I’ve been missold Payment Protection Insurance. I whisper I know where you live to them, and hang up the phone very, very gentle.When I started this book, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Eleanor. She is blunt and judgmental. What comes out of her mouth is often unintentionally funny because she is just so emotionally and socially stunted. I laughed out loud quite a bit even though Eleanor wasn’t making jokes. Like, the time she went to get a bikini wax and the esthetician asked her if she wanted a Tiffani, Brazilian, or a Hollywood wax. Eleanor said, “Holly would, and so would Eleanor.” There is a naïveté and innocence to her character that is completely endearing and charming, though there were moments Honeyman was asking the reader to suspend disbelief a little too far. When I finished the novel, I realized that I came to love Eleanor along the way, all the crooked and unique parts of her character.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.This book reminded me so much of an off-the-wall indie movie, complete with quirky characters and a great friendship storyline. I reach a point about a third of the way where I just loved where Honeyman was taking the story.The cast of characters in this novel was what made it that much more enjoyable. We meet Raymond, the new guy at work, who Eleanor describes as an unattractive overweight man who smokes and walks on the balls of his feet. What he lacks in conventional beauty, he makes up for in heart. He’s such a good guy who loves his mom and over time, comes to really care about Eleanor. Sammy, the older gentleman Eleanor and Raymond help, is vivacious, sprite, and so great!“These days, loneliness is the new cancer—a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.”But the highlight of the novel was seeing Eleanor blossom and start to deal with her own pain. Despite the title, Eleanor Oliphant wasn’t completely fine but she will be. Uplifting and hopeful, this novel is one I will come back to, just so I can spend time with Eleanor just a little bit longer.Audiobook Comments:After reading this book, I picked it right back up again on audiobook. The audiobook is really great and I really loved the narrator’s Eleanor. Her dry, deadpan delivery was absolutely perfect! Highly recommended!* Thanks to the Penguin First Reads program and Penguin Random House Audio for providing me a review copy for review!