Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Book - Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineThe title of this book – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – has intrigued me, ever since I saw people reading it when it first came out, and yet something put me off – I think it was the knowledge that it was about loneliness, and I was afraid that it would challenge my perceptions of others, and perhaps even my perceptions of myself. But it does far more than that. It is a fascinating, beautifully told, incredibly gripping tale about one young woman who is just about coping with life.  

Eleanor Oliphant seems very strange to begin with, but we gradually discover more and more about an unspecified traumatic incident from her past, which has clearly had a massive impact on her behaviour in the present. She goes to work each day, cooks and eats the same meal each evening, downs the same bottles of vodka every weekend, and has developed a thick skin, so that when people stare at her scars, she barely notices.

Eleanor’s colleagues, and the people she encounters in the local shops, think she is strange, but they never bother to find out why, until Raymond, the new IT man, fixes her office computer. He is nothing special, and Eleanor doesn’t think much of him to begin with, but they gradually spend more time together, and this opens up a whole new world for Eleanor – a world of friends, families and parties, a world which she is not quite ready to slot into.

Meanwhile Eleanor is intent on her own special ‘project’, as she searches for happiness and contentment, and we begin to see that her version of events might be slightly different to our own.

As we progress through the book it soon becomes clear that something horrific happened to Eleanor at a very young age, that she went through several foster homes as a child, and that she has never fully recovered. In fact, it’s not even clear that she is fully aware herself of what happened, and how it has affected her. But one thing she does know – people are not to be trusted. It is Raymond, his mother, and the kind old man Sammy who eventually undermine this certainty that she has built her whole life upon.

I haven’t cried so much whilst reading a book in a long time. Eleanor is a fascinating character, whose world is frighteningly normal – she could be anyone you meet today, minding their own business, barely surviving in a pit of loneliness whilst few people are even aware of their existence. This book is shamelessly clear in its message – we need to connect, to talk to each other, to take a risk, make ourselves vulnerable and reach out to those around us. What an incredible novel – one which I will remember for a long time to come.

Buy a copy of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine here.

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