Saturday 28 October 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman    {Reviewed by STELLA}
With a title so emphatically sure of itself, you know that something is up and you are curious to find out what. Gail Honeyman’s debut novel,Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, draws you in immediately. You meet Eleanor - an unusual woman in her thirties who lives alone works in an office (the same place she’s been since she finished university), and follows her own particular set of rules which result in an austere, simple life devoid of indulgence or frivolities, friends or family. As we travel alongside Eleanor, some peculiarities come to our attention: she drinks cheap vodka from Friday night until work on Monday and has a weekly call from Mummy on a Wednesday - an event that fills her with increasing discomfort. What starts as a quirky, amusing tale about an oddity becomes more endearing as Eleanor Oliphant becomes besotted with a musician, someone the reader sees clearly for what he is, but poor Eleanor is blind to. Yet this obsession is the making of her: as she plans her fantasy relationship she inadvertently becomes connected with the world around her. This is helped by a coincidental incident where she, along with her workmate Raymond, help an elderly man who has collapsed in the street. This incident leads to a budding friendship with Raymond, an unusual situation for Eleanor, who has never had a friend. As the story goes along, we begin to build a clearer picture of our heroine. Her childhood in foster homes, her contact with social workers, and her horrendous mother. The first part of this novel is called Good Days and we sense that Eleanor is running from something, living in a bubble to protect herself from a past that is haunting her. Honeyman keeps the tone light in this part, with gags, most visited upon and by Eleanor with her odd behaviour and often inappropriate remarks. The final third is the Bad Days, where Eleanor’s fantasy world has crumbled and the influence of Mummy looks as if it might destroy her. But Eleanor Oliphant (not her real name) is made of sterner stuff and while the reveal at the end is a shocker, this novel is ultimately a charmer (even when dealing with the damaging consequences of a disturbing childhood) which embraces the life-affirming power of friendship and care.

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