‘Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than….fine?’
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a book that really needs no introduction. Published recently by Harper Collins, this is one of those books that has just caught the imagination of the reading world. Having been sold to over thirty territories worldwide, Gail Honeyman has written a novel that has mass appeal.
Chosen as the September choice for the bookclub I’m involved with, I was very curious to find out…’Who was Eleanor Oliphant?’
But, as I was soon to discover…Eleanor Oliphant was NOT fine. Eleanor Oliphant was far from fine.
Read on for my thoughts…
Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
‘When people ask me what I do, I tell them I work in an office…I’m nearly thirty years old now and I’ve been working here since I was twenty-one..I turned up for the interview with a black eye, a couple of missing teeth and a broken arm. Maybe he sensed (Bob the owner) back then, that I would never aspire to anything more than a poorly paid office job. Perhaps he could tell that I’d never need to take time off to go on honeymoon. or request maternity leave. I don’t know.’
Eleanor Oliphant lives a very isolated life. From a young age, Eleanor’s existence has been one of emotional upheaval and trauma. As the years have passed, Eleanor has wrapped herself up in layers, as protection against the hardness of the world. Her experiences have been very harrowing and life-changing, to the point that Eleanor doesn’t expect or even look for the company of another human being.
Very much caught up in a routine, Eleanor’s days all blend into one. Her life is quite automated and this is how she likes it. Eleanor is fine……
In the office that Eleanor has worked in for almost nine years, her colleagues laugh at her behind her back and freely throw comments in her direction, not realising the hurt that they cause, not realising that Eleanor didn’t choose this life for herself, it chose her.
For me, personally, there is a short paragraph that I found particularly sad and I’m going to share it with you here today.
‘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 would dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock.’
Imagine feeling that invisible…that small?
Imagine questioning your very existence to yourself?
Imagine never having a friend drop by for a cuppa?
Imagine never being invited for dinner, to the cinema, for a walk?
A chance event turns Eleanor’s world upside down.
She steps outside of the world she is accustomed to. It’s all very strange and very new to Eleanor, as she emerges like a butterfly out of a cocoon into this ‘other’ world. A little act of kindness has a ripple effect that impacts every part of her life.
Eleanor has lived a very simple life. As strange as it can seem when reading the novel, the everyday stuff most of us take for granted, is so very new to Eleanor.
For Eleanor life becomes a little more complex. Faced with monumental challenges, Eleanor is supported through many of these by one very special person.
We all need love in our lives.
We all need someone to care for us.
We all need someone to support us.
One individual reaching out is sometimes all that it takes to make a major difference to somebody’s life.
Eleanor is a very unique and special person. Her quirky personality, with her very direct approach, is sometimes very refreshing. But it is her silent cry out to the world that breaks your heart.
Eleanor Oliphant is not fine, but all it takes is that one person to change the direction of a life that the world had abandoned and forgotten about.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a very sentimental and emotional read, yet it is also a book that leaves the reader with a sense of hope for the world…a sense of new beginnings.
Purchase Link ~ Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Gail Honeyman is a graduate of the universities of Glasgow and Oxford.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was short-listed for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress and is Honeyman’s debut novel. It was chosen as one of the Observer’s Debuts of the year for 2017.
Gail was awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s next chapter Award in 2014, and has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.
She lives in Glasgow, Scotland.
Twitter ~ @GailHoneyman