The South Bank Review Winter 2017 | Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine Review
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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine Review

 

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman

 

Eleanor Oliphant is very clearly not fine. This is despite her efforts to present herself as the ultimate epitome of stability and sanity. Eleanor has been working at the same office for nine years. She coordinates her days with a strict routine. She works Monday to Friday, completes the Daily Telegraph crossword during her lunch hour, does her weekly shopping at Marks and Spencer every Friday after work and follows this with a trip to Tesco Metro to purchase a margherita pizza and two bottles of vodka. She has the pizza for dinner like she does every Friday night and consumes the two bottles of vodka over the weekend without fail. She has no friends nor any social life or social skills to speak of. Eleanor has lived this way for a long time and is completely and utterly okay with this until she slowly comes to realise that maybe she isn’t.

Her carefully ordered life is interrupted by the entrance of Raymond, the new IT guy, who she initially deems to be evidence of the deplorable decline of modern manners, hygiene, style and unfortunately, men in general.

‘Animals, birds and insects can provide such useful insights. If I’m ever unsure as to the correct course of action, I’ll think, ‘What would a ferret do?’ or ‘How would a salamander respond to this situation?’ Invariably, I find the right answer.’

I listened to the audiobook version which was beautifully narrated by Cathleen McCarron. Her narration is a wonderful performance in and of itself. I was so completely and entirely immersed in the world of Eleanor Oliphant, Raymond and Sammy that I had to put everything else off to finish it. Eleanor’s narration and experience of everyday occurrences and interactions was written in such a way that was both hilarious and perplexing. I had to stop listening to the book in public all together because I found myself bursting into laughter and being on the receiving end of some awkward and, at times, unfriendly looks.

What I appreciated most about the narrative was that Eleanor’s ultimate happiness and self-confidence is not instigated or achieved through a romantic plot which is exactly as it should be. An individual’s innate sense of self-worth should not be linked or dependant on another person. The end of the novel hints at a possible romance for Eleanor but it isn’t the head and forefront of her overall development. She is not magically ‘cured’ by the power of love.

I thought that the ‘plot twist’ was slightly unnecessary. I felt that it contributed very little to the overall plot and came off as somewhat forced. It was almost as though it had been thought up in the last second just to check off ‘plot twist’.

The book was very hard to listen to at times because of how sensitive and tragic the underlying topic of the narrative was but ultimately, ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ is a tale of perseverance, friendship and the human condition. Each and every character was well written and unbelievable authentic. Eleanor is flawed: she is socially awkward, painfully literal at time and emotionally damaged and yet, or maybe because of this, she was incredibly charming and relatable.

This book is Gail Honeyman’s debut novel. Honeyman, a Glasgow native, wrote the novel in between her part jobs and the book has already been shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award 2014.

Suad Aden
suad786@hotmail.co.uk

Suad is an English student at London South Bank University. She loves the creative writing part of her degree course and is slowly working her way towards becoming a teacher in the near future. She loves writing in her spare time but has yet to be brave enough to share most of what she writes. Her choice of degree was prompted by a love of great authors like Michael Morpurgo, J. B. Priestley and J.K. Rowling.