Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine


Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
Gail Honeyman

ISBN 9781501110368
Psychological Fiction
327 pages

4star

Literary Awards

Costa Book Award for First Novel (2017), Audie Award for Fiction (2018), Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA)


Eccentric, eloquent Eleanor Oliphant is fine on her own. Each day of her life is carefully laid out: doing her crossword puzzles during office breaks, chatting with mummy over the phone every Wednesday and drinking vodka on weekends. She’s completely fine keeping her distance from her colleagues and minimizing social interactions until she meets Raymond from IT.

On two occasions, Eleanor has to deviate from her time-tabled life. She saves, together with Raymond, a stranger named Sammy and finds the man of her life. She knows that mummy will be pleased by these. Gradually, she is swept into relationships that is rich in emotion and interaction she never believed she needed. As the novel unfolds, we find out more about the terrible fire that left her scarred. Ultimately, she has to face this past that she has kept on putting behind her for many years.

Gail Honeyman’s characters are flawed, unpredictable and real. Eleanor Oliphant is everyone’s heroine despite her idiosyncrasies and occasional insensitivity. You can’t help adore her for her quirkiness:

“I have my own mug and spoon, which I keep in my desk drawer for hygiene reasons. My colleagues think this strange, or at least I assume so from their reactions, and yet they are happy to drink from filthy vessels, washed carelessly by unknown hands. I cannot even countenance the notion of inserting a teaspoon, licked and sucked by a stranger barely an hour beforehand, into a hot beverage. Filthy.”

“She hadn’t remarked upon Polly, I thought, which was odd. Ridiculously, I felt almost slighted on Polly’s behalf. She’d been sitting in the corner throughout our meeting, and was clearly the most eye-catching thing in the room. My beautiful Polly, prosaically described as a parrot plant. . . .”

As for Raymond, he is not the most lovable man in both real life and fiction. He has an awful taste for clothing, unhygienic and has an annoying habit of making slurping sound while eating. What’s admirable about him is his genuine affection for his friends. If it serves the story well we would love to see Eleanor falling for him.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is simultaneously hilarious and heartwarming. It is an exploration of loneliness, depression, friendship and human connections. It is a journey of one person’s victory over depression. You will never see mental health issues the same way again after reading this debut novel of Gail Honeyman.

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