Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled existence. Except, sometimes, everything…
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, is a novel by author Gail Honeyman that has recently gained critical attention because of its very real themes of mental health and the people who suffer from it. Initially I was hesitant to read this book because from the blurb only, the plot was very vague and even when I knew about the themes of mental illness, I still didn’t really know what this book was about. But I decided to give it a go because I was headed up to the Lakes and would be stuck in the car for around 3 hours- 3 hours later… well let’s just say I’ve never finished a book so quickly.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, follows Eleanor- a finance clerk for a Graphic design company who lives a very structured life. Every lunchtime she completes the Daily Telegraphy crossword, every Wednesday she has her weekly phone call with “Mummy” and every Friday she buys two bottles of vodka and a margherita pizza for the weekend. Eleanor has lead this life since she left university and she is happy, however despite her very structured lifestyle, Eleanor has left no room for any kind of friends or social interactions- it’s just something she doesn’t think about. Eleanor is content in her life and doesn’t see any changes in the foreseeable future. All of this changes however, when she wins concert tickets in an office draw- at the concert Eleanor instantly falls for the lead singer of the warm-up act- Johnnie Lomond. Eleanor quickly decides Johnnie would make perfect “husband material”– an idea egged on by her mother, so Eleanor sets out to change her life.
During her attempts to win Johnnie over Eleanor, much to her reluctance, begins a budding friendship with Raymond– the IT guy who works in her building. After she asks him to fix her office computer he asks her to hang out and begins to walk home with her. Before she can attempt to dodge him, the pair witness an old man- Sammy- take a fall- leading them to calling an ambulance. The pair begin to continuously meet up to visit Sammy and later his family, but Eleanor realises that having an actual friend isn’t the worst thing in the world and the pair begin to have weekly lunches together.
Eleanor is also forced to dig into her past- something she has never done before. After Raymond begins to ask her about her scars and her mother’s weekly phone calls get more tense the more sociable Eleanor gets- Eleanor realises she knows almost nothing about her childhood- and until now she had been completely fine with that. Twice a year Eleanor is visited by a social worker but in her 30 years Eleanor has never once actually read her file, she also has no idea who her father. Her more outgoing personality leads to Eleanor uncovering several somewhat faded memories which she is reluctant to dig through- but where they hidden for a reason?
In order to win Johnnie over, Eleanor reasons, she will have to become the “perfect woman” for him- becoming more sociable and aware of modern trends. In preparation for meeting her future husband, Eleanor begins to take better care of her appearance- buying new clothes, makeup and getting a haircut, she even begins to follow Johnnie on Twitter and visits his house to “find out where he lives”. As Eleanor becomes increasingly ready to meet her future husband she begins to gain much needed social skills- but when she finally meets the groom to be- will it all be worth it and will she be able to survive what happens?
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was such a thought provoking read and a new literary heroine has emerged in Eleanor. Reading this book really makes you think about loneliness and depression and the people who are going through it. Eleanor’s life may have seemed perfectly fine to her- but she really wasn’t and it took her a long time to see that. Eleanor was a very unusual, funny and brilliant character and her journey was definitely one for the ages. The friendship between Eleanor and Raymond was easily the best thing about this book and whilst reading, unlike a lot of books I genuinely didn’t know who, if anyone, would get a happy ending. Eleanor Oliphant is not completely fine and whilst it make take her a long time to notice this, the emotional challenges she faces make her one of the most interesting and readable characters in a long, long time. Similar to a lot of other projects, Reese Witherspoon has already optioned this book for a film- which I predict good things for, so I urge so many people to read this book, I’m certainly glad I did- it may just change your life.