Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine – so she says.
This was not the kind of novel I was expecting when I picked up this book. I took it to be another chick flick style book about a single girl who struggles through a few problems before meeing ‘the one’ and living happily ever after. If this is what you are after then this may open your eyes.
This is a book that uncomfortably looks at loneliness. With a lot of focus these days on mental health it was really interesting to read a book focussing on another central element in todays society. Loneliness is a growing concern in the age of digital interaction. How easy it is nowadays to live in isolation.
Eleanor says some things that make you’re heart ache with the realness of the situation. These quotes stuck with me.
“If someone asks how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”
“These days, loneliness is the new cancer—a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.”
“When the silence and the aloneness press down and around me, crushing me, carving through me like ice, I need to speak aloud sometimes, if only for proof of life.”
Here we have a woman who is a nobody. Every workplace will have an Eleanor. Someone who does their job and goes home. Eats the same meals, kills their pain with some booze then back to the office on Monday.
No one asks too many questions and after a few rebukes make no further effort.
We know something has happened to Eleanor, the scar on her cheek and mini flash backs open the storyline up. And the tension grows steadily as you expect to discover something imminently.
The charcaters feel real and their interactions are so vivid you could be reading a film script. You aren’t sure wether Eleanors social inaptitude comes from a learning difficulty or years of emotional neglect. But she has humour and is a strangely likeable heroine in the novel.
The storyline is grim and gritty; even though it gives no inclination of this other than the clue that why would anyone need two bottles of vodka to get through each weekend.
Because of Eleanors lack of knowledge of the world and social norms, she soon becomes an unreliable narrator. This makes you sift through conversations to pick up on the real relationships. The friendship with Raymond is beautiful and makes you hope for a happy ending.
The twist at the end I felt was unneccesary and a bit ‘for the sake of added drama’. But the plot leaves your mind open to ask a lot of questions and that’s what I like in a good book. Something that touches me and leaves me thinking.
This is the authors debut novel, a wroter in their 40’s, Gail Honeyman was discovered through a writing competition – this makes my heart happy and forever gives me hope for my ambition of being ‘discovered’!!
Have you read it? Is it on your list of read this summer? Let me know!