Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Book Review

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is already a contender for my book of the year. This novel schools us on loneliness and empathy, could it make you a better person?

Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a book that had been winking at me from the shelves in Waterstone’s for months. Though I was drawn in by the unusual cover, I couldn’t quite bring myself to shell out for a hard back copy. Weeks later, the paperback landed on shelves and made its way to the till with me.

I can always tell how much I am enjoying a book by the speed at which I get through it. Though this is a bit of a chunky one, I raced through it in the space of a weekend – much to my boyfriends surprise! The story follows Eleanor Oliphant, a reclusive woman who lives alone and works as a finance assistant. Though she’s been quite happy to be on her own, a man has caught her eye and triggered a self-improvement project.

Loneliness in our communities is being increasingly discussed, as we are becoming more aware of those who don’t get to experience enough human interaction. However, this is something we’re more aware of in older people, rather than those who are younger and vulnerable. Eleanor Oliphant… provides insight into how someone in their twenties or thirties may experience loneliness, and how this can effect the way they act.

Told from Eleanor’s perspective, we’re shown exactly how she sees the world. Honeyman has written her extremely well, as we’re given a good sense of reality while also getting an understanding of Eleanor’s interpretation. Though she should be our homegirl (and overall we’re definitely rooting for her), there are times you find yourself vocally frustrated with Eleanor and, likewise, the second hand embarrassment felt at some points is real.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine also teaches a lesson of empathy – though Eleanor initially comes across as very strange and unpleasant, over the course of the novel you begin to understand her actions and how they relate to her history. You can see how each act of kindness brings her out of her shell and improves her confidence and world view. Eleanor Oliphant… is a great example of how random acts of kindness which seem so small to us can mean the world to those we do them for.

I’m impressed that Eleanor Oliphant is Honeyman’s debut novel. It may be early days, but Eleanor Oliphant… is already a contender for my favourite book of the year. I can’t wait to see what else Honeyman writes!