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Based on the cover design, I expected this to be a light, fun read. This turned out to be the BEST book I've read in 2020!
Eleanor is much deeper than the picture on the cover leads you to believe. Amusingly written, well developed and interesting characters, with a deceptively simple plot that I found I couldn't look away from, I finished it too quickly. I highly recommend!
The title of Gail Honeyman’s book “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” is sarcasm. Eleanor is anything, but fine. She is physically and mentally scarred by her abusive mother. She is getting by, by keeping herself tightly in check and getting drunk on the weekends to keep the memories at bay. This book is the story of how her world changes when she is forced to become involved an act of kindness for a stranger. How recovery is not a pretty picture. How sometimes you have to admit to yourself, you need help to stand up for yourself and face your personal demons. It was good.
There’s so much buzz about other first-published fiction writers like Sally Rooney and Stephanie Danler, and I’m sure so many others. Good for them: Conversations with Friends was really good but kind of gimmicky, but much better than Normal People as the gimmick wore off. And Sweetbitter was kind of annoying and predictable but brilliantly written which is absolutely frustrating to tell you the truth. With those, I didn’t drop lifeless in my chair and stick there until I was finished reading, getting numb and hungry but unable to stop like I did with this one.
And honestly, it seems kind of gimmicky but to me it was just enough quirk and plot and suspense to make me sit still and lose a day in that uncomfortable chair. Actually there’s a lot of quirk. Brilliant quirk. Brilliant British quirk, the best kind of all. It’s a way of learning about another place, through someone else’s eyes, living through situations you never will. And have so much fun while you are sitting still, not being in mental anguish from abuse you never had inflicted upon you.
Not to say this is depressing. It could have been, and it is a little fiction-ish. But somehow I enjoyed getting lost in a weird-as-hell character who says what she thinks, and what you’d say if you were being honest and if you were living in a really strange bubble. Such fun to be honest. And it makes you think about how much we lie and cover up and hide and pretend and be nice when we really don’t want to give our names to the barista.
I haven’t recommended this to my friends or family because I’m just not sure it’s for everyone. But whenever someone talks about wishing people would just be honest with them, I feel like they should read this book and they’d get a good look at why people aren’t going to ever “be honest.”
Amazing and quirky and fun and just SO good! I LOVE ELEANOR!
Reviewed in the United States on May 15, 2020
ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE touched my soul in ways that few books ever have. I just finished reading it with a few tears: sad for the awful things Eleanor experienced as a child; happy for the beautiful person the 30 year old is becoming; sad for myself to be saying goodbye to this remarkable person and this amazing book.
Gail Honeyman's book does the thing that all excellent storytelling does: It makes you see and feel things that are outside of your usual way of experiencing the world. I read to see, learn and vicariously experience things that are unknown or new to me OR to experience familiar things in new ways. To be able to read and enjoy reading is a gift; ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE is a gift to readers.
If you are familiar with Wally Lamb's novel, SHE'S COME UNDONE, you will find some similarities to ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE. Let me explain: The main character in both books is a young woman who can be described as a late bloomer. The obstacles that they face are often self imposed, but require they face childhood trauma and open themselves to the world around them in order to live. The goal and dream is to live a happy fulfilling life, but for any chance of that, they have to keep living, despite extreme and painful circumstances. I liked SHE'S COME UNDONE, but I loved
ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE .
My reading experience was unusual for this book. I didn't like it for several chapters. I honestly couldn't stand Eleanor and I kept wondering what all the hype was about. But...Eleanor, as a character, is insidious. She is completely unique. She has a dry sarcastic humor and has mastered the one word comment (usually to herself), that sums up her unique view of any situation or person so perfectly, I laughed out loud. She does this constantly, and it is so uniquely HER, that you slowly begin to like and eventually, to love her.
I LOVE ELEANOR! and I loved this book. It is Amazing and quirky and fun and just so good. Stick with it, and get to know Eleanor. She will grow on you in ways you'll never regret
I really enjoyed this unusual story with such an interesting character. Eleanor’s humorous observations made me smile.
Honestly, I feel fooled by people who describe this book as “funny”. Sure, there are a few funny parts and Eleanor is quite a quirky character. But she is a survivor of horrific child abuse, which contributes to her quirkiness. It’s satisfying to watch Eleanor walk through some level of healing, as she experiences friendship and unconditional love for the first time and I found myself cheering for her through the whole process. However, just be aware....”funny” is not a word I would ever use to describe the overall feeling of this book, as the reader comes to find the level of violent child abuse sweet Eleanor was subject to.
I enjoyed reading this book. It was entertaining and I looked forward to each time I opened it to see how Eleanor was doing. It makes me look at casual relationships in my life a little more closely. Sometimes what you need is right there already. I'm wishing for an 2nd story on Eleanor because now I feel attached to her.
I love this book. It really helped me unravel my own "issues" and see someone like me learning how to cope with a confusing and incomprehensible world. So well written, so much insight. I LOVE THIS BOOK.
This book deserves all the praise it has received and i understand why so many people wish to read it. One thing i will add is to be mindful of your emotions as the content in the book may cause distress for some readers.
As a first novel, this book is excellent. It delves into the issue of loneliness and the traumatic effects of a horrible childhood. Eleanor Oliphant, the main character, is a socially-awkward young woman who, allowing herself to open up to a new friend (Raymond), is able to look forward to a much brighter future. Beautifully written.
This is a compassionate and funny story of a lonely young woman with a traumatic past, forging a joyful future.
Great characters and a lot of wit. I enjoyed having socially awkward Eleanor be the narrator. Terrific work for a first novel. Fell apart at the end for me a bit but still very happy to have read this book.
I gave this book a 4 star rating. The story and characters are unusual but compelling. While the basis of the story is disturbing, there is a hopefulness to this narrative. The novel also held a few major surprises until almost the end.
Amazing book - beautifully rendered, compelling and extremely moving. It makes you think what it is like to feel lonely in a room full of people.
The life of socially awkward and lonely accounts clerk Eleanor Oliphant begins to change when she develops a friendship with the IT guy at her office. Physically scarred and traumatized from an abusive upbringing, Eleanor spends her weekends doing crossword puzzles and downing a lot of vodka. Her grasp on reality is somewhat tenuous, as she fantasizes about a romance with a local musician she has never met. But with Raymond’s steady, nonjudgmental friendship she begins to stretch her limitations. This wasn’t always believable; her awkwardness is selective — sometimes she handles social situations well; other times clumsily. This book had shades of The Rosie Project and A Man Called Ove running through it, and although I disliked those two books -- the former intensely so -- I had more compassion for Eleanor and was keen for her to succeed and grow.
Absolutely Fabulous! I've owned this book since it's release and I can't believe it took me this long to finally read it. I also had the pleasure of listening to it's wonderful audio production. I was drawn into the story from the outset and kept captivated by the unpredictable story line. Initially, Eleanor came across as abrasive and while there was much character growth, the author maintained a believable characterization throughout. Eleanor softened, but rarely, if ever, deviated from her concrete way of thinking. I loved that consistency. There were also appealing secondary characters that help Eleanor discover what it means to rely on others, as well as being altruistic. Those interactions were some of the most moving moments in the story. While there was often a heartrending undertone in the story, it was equally uplifting with a beautiful and subtle ending.
I spent all my spare time reading this book. I was enthralled. Honeyman is an exceptional writer, seeping out bits of information in a nonchalant way, indirectly, not through in-your-face explanation. Her characterization of Eleanor’s very scholarly way of speaking is funny. Yet the subject matter of Eleanor’s psychological damage and the eventual revelation of the truth is shattering. The book runs the entire emotional gamut.
There is so much food for thought in this book – psychosis, the nature of love, loss, social isolation, memory suppression, human kindness, and so much more. Quite profound. "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" is a fascinating journey of how Eleanor’s definition of “fine” evolves.
In her late 20s, Eleanor Oliphant is definitely not fine. Her classics degree fits her for an office job, where she's a lonely outsider. She feels superior because her grammar and vocabulary are better than anybody else's. The women she works with are interested only in gossip, clothes, and men. Eleanor reads serious literature, and on weekends buys 2 bottles of vodka to get her through until she can get back to her desk and accounts receivable She speaks impeccable proper English, dresses in comfortable if not fashionable clothing in a dirty apartment she's lived in for decades, since she'd graduated from state care. She tries not to think about the scars on her face from arson when she was 10. She has no friends, but one day she and a co-worker, Raymond, who she'd learned to know when she had to call on him for his assistance in his specialty—computers. He's sloppy, always late, and pays no attention to her suggestions that his chain smoking's bad for his health—and hers. One day they see an elderly man across the street fall, and by the time they get to him, he's unconscious. Raymond tries to get her to call 999 for help, but she had no cell phone, so he tells her to talk to Sammy while he calls the authorities. Raymond goes with Sammy in the ambulance, and she calls the old man's family. This is the beginning of a new life for all 3, as they become friends. Friends! Eventually she realizes she's depressed, and get sinto therapy, thanks to Raymond, when Sammy dies. Mostly she's silent, but eventually begins to cry, then to talk. Finally she tells Maria that she fells guilty because she couldn't save Marianne, who was her sister, age 4, locked in a wardrobe by their mother. Maria reminded her she couldn't save both children, given their ages. Raymond and she both looked up online to find out what had really happened. Two people died—their mother, and Marianne. Eleanor was the only survivor, and felt very guilty. And every Wed. night her mother called her, telling her how worthless and useless and clumsy she was. This was the only part I didn't understand. If her mother died, who was calling Eleanor weekly? Was it one of the bad foster mothers? If not, who? Even Maria, let alone Raymond, agreed she was right to tell her Mummy to buzz off, and that she wouldn't answer the phone ever again. But that bit still bothers me. Otherwise, a lovely book showing growth and development, and a probable heading toward Raymond and Eleanor moving in together eventually and being able to be happy together. But who was her “Mummy?” Her sense of guilt? Her need to forgive herself for not saving Marianne?
Getting into this novel takes a bit of reading. The author's style is smooth, thoughtful, rich. But we are not automatically embracing the voice of the character, Eleanor.
We know from the onset that Eleanor is an idiosyncratic cluster of behaviors. We begin to feel the isolation of her daily life because of the raw details of her first person narrative.
Eleanor is very alone, isolated, like many single women, living lives of work, and not much else. But. Who cares?
Eleanor teaches us ... Emotional Trauma is a deeply embedded network of memories, results, shortcomings, limitations, fears. Words cannot always easily explain the scars of trauma.
If this book teaches one lesson to a reader, it might be to learn to, to want to, open our eyes and our hearts to those around us who have lived through, but still feel, the repercussions of familial trauma. We can make a difference to that person. And who do we know who is alone? Raymond was a patient example of kindness in action.
There are quite a few funny lines tucked into the narrative. Refreshing.
This is one of those books where you're torn between rushing to find out what happens to the characters, yet also wanting to read slowly because you don't want it to end. It's been quite a while since I've enjoyed a book so much.