Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the debut book by Gail Honeyman, a Scottish author. It was written after Honeyman read a newspaper article about loneliness and it quoted a woman who said that she rarely spoke to anyone between leaving work on the Friday and returning on a Monday morning.
I have to admit that I found this book difficult to begin with. Not because it isn’t well written, it is. But because the main character, Eleanor Oliphant, is difficult to connect to. This is of course the point of the character, but it still meant that I struggled to sympathise with her or like her very much at the beginning. Gradually you get to know her though, especially through her relationship with others, and you see that she is just a confused, lost person who is trying to fit in as best she can. It was a little over half way through the book, when we reach the second section, that I finally began to connect and fully empathise with the character. Watching her grapple with feelings and emotions and facing her past made her more human and relatable. I thoroughly enjoyed the second half of this book, in fact I read it in one sitting, not getting the early night I had planned but I was just completely absorbed by it and had to read what happened next and then finish it.
The overarching theme of this book is loneliness. It takes quite an extreme approach to it, but it was effective nonetheless. It also reminded us that we don’t know what people have experienced in their past or what they are currently going through and we shouldn’t judge a person based on our own preconceptions – something that was addressed well with an encounter on a bus.
It did feel as though the second half of the book was too quick, the speed at which Eleanor is meant to deal with her past issues when she finally faces them was extremely fast. Having said that Honeyman was clear that Eleanor still had more work to do, and although the ending was a bit of a surprise (more so how easily Eleanor dealt with a revelation) you could tell that it wasn’t the end of her journey and she still had a long way to go.
I did enjoy this book and am pleased I read it, I can also see why it was a Costa Book Awards winner in 2017.