Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of a quirky yet lonely woman whose social misunderstandings and deeply ingrained routines could be changed forever—if she can bear to confront the secrets she has avoided all her life. But if she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.
You know those books it seems everyone is talking about (even non-bookish people)? Despite all the hype surrounding Eleanor Oliphant, I still didn’t really know what to expect. I was, of course, dubious. Surely this couldn’t be as amazing as all the reviews and recommendations I’d read? Finally I gave in and ordered a copy which, strangely, I started the very day it arrived. The more I started to know Eleanor though, the more fitting this seemed. Because (as many book lovers may also attest to) it’s normal for me to leave a book for a shamefully long time before I pick it up. And I have to admit, Eleanor was worth the hype.
Eleanor’s life is controlled by routine. She works in administration and avoids the chit chat of the office, lives alone and does the same set of things each day, with special exceptions for the weekends. Eleanor has no friends or family, the latter due to an unknown trauma slowly revealed throughout the novel. But witnessing an old man’s collapse in the street throws her seemingly uncomplicated life into relative chaos.
One of my favourite Beatles songs is George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps precisely because it is so beautiful, but holds a haunting melancholy. Eleanor Oliphant was the same in that it wasn’t a happy or sad book, but a beautiful and realistic combination of both. From my perspective, there was an intense sadness to Eleanor’s life and loneliness, but when readers meet her she is satisfied. Not happy maybe, but satisfied. I loved the way her growing sense of understanding about the world and her place in it was explored, her realisation that she could pursue, and indeed deserved, more. More happiness, more emotions, more human relationships.
Starting this novel, I was immediately struck by Eleanor’s voice. I’ve been close to people with similar personality traits and her adherence to structure, her discomfort at change and the unsettlingly feeling of realising the minute scale of her world hit so close to home. Eleanor is not the sort of person you’d befriend off the bat; she’s what many people would call strange. Yet the very qualities which make her so awkward in conventional social situations make her such an endearing character on the page. I was immediately on her side, not pitying her but hoping she would find the happiness she wasn’t even aware she was missing out on. It was so hard to stop thinking about Eleanor whenever I put this down.
While Eleanor is the focus, this novel was filled with a range of wonderful characters. Raymond is a gem and I found their relationship so charming. I was living for their time together on the page and just so, so happy Raymond didn’t give up on Eleanor. His mum was also a darling. The beauty of Eleanor Oliphant was the way it highlighted how simple moments of kindness can change someone’s world. I recently watched a TEDx talk about these ‘lollipop moments’ where you may make an indelible impact on someone else’s, sometimes without even realising. Eleanor’s journey felt like the epitome of this concept, with a simple expression on behalf of one person transforming her worldview.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is deserving of the awards, the praise, and love from readers. Endearing, emotional and heartfelt, Eleanor is a character which has lingered in my mind beyond the final words. If, like me, you’ve been avoiding the hype surrounding this book it’s time to stop doubting and start reading.