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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail HoneymanEleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Published by Cengage Gale on 2017
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 557
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No one's ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she's thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond's big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . . The only way to survive is to open your heart.

Eleanor Oliphant is completely 100% fine. She goes to her office job five days a week and then treats herself to a frozen pizza and a bottle of vodka on a weekend. She lives alone and doesn’t have any friends, but that’s okay. She’s doing real well, thank you very much.

Except maybe she isn’t.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine caught me completely unawares. I’ll be honest – I picked it up because it got some buzz and the author is British, but it actually turned out to be one of those perfectly-balanced sad/funny books. Maybe like some combination of The Rosie ProjectMe Before YouFinding Audrey and A Man Called Ove. It takes a serious, traumatic issue and weaves it into a warm, funny and, yes, sometimes sad tale.
I read a lot of books and many characters come and go. Some are well-developed and interesting, others less so. But on a rare occasion I find one of those truly memorable characters that will stay with me a long time. Eleanor is one of them. She is socially clueless in a way that puts my teen self to shame. She is literal to a degree that everyone finds odd. It’s painful to witness and yet so, so endearing.
I think I like this book so much because it is actually really sad, but never manipulative. On a surface level, it’s a very funny novel about a socially-inept twenty-nine year-old woman. Her attempts to become “normal” and integrate into society by having manicures and waxes are sources of hilarity. But it is very sad. It’s sad when we see her coworkers talking about her, but Eleanor is oblivious to their scorn. It’s sad how alone in life she is. It’s sad when she “falls in love” with an idea of a person.
It’s not a romantic book and I’m glad. There are hints that the central relationship will eventually develop into romance, but this is really a book about Eleanor. I am thankful that the author didn’t cure Eleanor and lead her out of the darkness by having her fall in love. Being happy and achieving greater self-worth should, in my opinion, never be linked to romance.
I really enjoyed it. It’s great to find a book so packed full of emotion without seeming overly-sentimental.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

4 Comments

  1. Hi Anna, I wanted to ask your opinion on the drama surrounding The Wild by K. Wesbter, which is a “romance”/erotica novel about a 40 year old father and his 16 year old daughter. The book is romanticizing incest, rape (the “hero” raped his wife which was written to arouse (the daughter was masturbating in the next room to the sounds of the rape. Later in the book the “hero” also raped the daughter which isn’t even called rape but “hostile takeover” to show her who she belongs to) and pedophilia (the father had had sexual thoughts about his daughter way before she was even sixteen). The book also vilifies depression. The mother became depressed after their son died, and is portrayed as a horrible mother and wife solely because of her depression. It’s also why the father rapes her. She is then killed off in a horrible manner to push forward the “romance” between the father and daughter.
    Amazon banned the ebook but is still selling the paperback, and the ebook is available at least in Smashwords. The author has a huge fanbase who is supporting the book and excusing the content. The author also doesn’t understand why it’s wrong to publish child pornography.
    I’m just so appalled by this book and the amount of people loving it and supporting the author in this matter. I don’t know if people outside the romance/erotica community have even heard of this book or the drama around it, but here’s a good review (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2083410117?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1) with some detailed spoiler under the spoiler tag, and this blogpost about the book is also great (https://jrrogue.com/2017/08/11/art-intention/). I was hoping you could maybe post something about it on Goodreads since you have a huge following. The book’s average rating is still almost four stars and I feel like most of the attention it’s getting is still positive. I’m hoping the book will be taken down everywhere since the author is still currently making a bank from actual child pornography. Maybe enough negative attention will achieve that. I’m a victim of incestuous sexual abuse and this book is personally so offensive I can’t let it be. It’s one thing to write about incest and sexual abuse as the horrible things they are, but this book glorifies it and portrays it in a positive manner. It’s marketed as a romance novel. The sex (including rape scenes) is meant to arouse the reader. This isn’t freedom of speech or harmless fiction, it’s just fucking wrong.

    • *Emily, not Anna. I sent the message to another blogger first 🙈

  2. Tabitha

    This is such a brilliant review. So eloquent without being overly detailed. I was in 2 minds about whether to buy this book, but now I will. Thank you!

  3. Brenda McQueen Neil

    Read this book in one sitting. Gail Honeyman is a master of her craft.

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