Wednesday 17 May 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman @GailHoneyman @HarperCollinsUK

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is published in the UK by Harper Collins in hardback on 18 May 2017 and is the author's debut novel.

This debut novel is beautifully written, Gail Honeyman has created a character in Eleanor who is difficult to dislike. She's also quite difficult to understand, but her innocent outlook and wry observations of some of the most mundane things really are magnificent.

Eleanor has worked in the same office as a finance clerk for many years. Her job is unexciting, she has no real relationships with her colleagues, it's just a place that she goes to every morning at the same time, Monday to Friday. On Wednesdays she speaks to her Mother. Eleanor has a weekend routine too. It involves a pizza from Tesco, a bottle of wine and two bottles of vodka. It rarely changes.

A very unexpected night out (she won the tickets in a charity raffle at work), to a band night changed Eleanor's routine, and her outlook. One glance at the lead singer on the stage and she knew that he was the ONE. Mother had always told her that there would be someone, one day.

The story that follows is an emotional, incredibly insightful and quite bewitching story of Eleanor's attempt to make herself shiny, to try to catch the attention of one man, to enter the real world. During the telling of Eleanor's story, the reader learns more about her past, and how that has shaped her present. This is a study in how one person can live in their own solitary. lonely existence, and how they can gradually draw themselves out of it. Eleanor is helped along the way by two characters who show her the most basic of things; kindness and friendship.

Eleanor is quirky, I have to be honest and admit that sometimes she was just a little too over-the-top for me. I wanted a little bit more of the inner Eleanor, not just her slanted views and observations, however, there is no doubt that Gail Honeyman has an incredible talent for crafting unusual characters, and yes, Eleanor Oliphant really is completely fine. A recommended read from me.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review,

Gail Honeyman wrote her debut at same time as holding down a full-time job, fitting writing into early mornings, evenings, weekends and holidays. While it was still a work-in-progress, she won the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award, which included a writing retreat at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre - an opportunity to spend uninterrupted time working on the book. Gail was also shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, the Bridport Prize and longlisted for BBC Radio 4's Opening Lines. She lives in Glasgow. 
Follow her on Twitter @GailHoneyman

GAIL ON WRITING ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE: There were two main ideas behind Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: the first was sparked by a newspaper feature about loneliness. 
One of the interviewees was an ordinary woman in her late 20s, with a job and a flat in the city, who said that, unless she made a special effort to arrange something in advance, she’d often – and not by choice - spend entire weekends without seeing or speaking to another human being. 

I started to wonder about how such a situation could come about, and about how devastating the consequences of such loneliness and isolation could potentially be, particularly for a relatively young person living alone in a big city. 

When loneliness is discussed, it’s most often in the context of older people who have perhaps been widowed and/or whose families have moved away. 
Whilst this is undoubtedly a serious issue, I started to think about hidden loneliness amongst younger people in particular, and about how little attention this receives. 
The workplace can be a good place to find opportunities to socialize, but what if you don’t meet any like-minded people there, or don’t have anything in common with your colleagues? Is it, somewhat counterintuitively, easier to find yourself lonely in a city than in a small town or village? Is there still a stigma attached to admitting that you’re lonely, especially if you’re a younger person? 

The second idea, which eventually became entwined with the first, was the concept of social oddness; specifically, the kind of person we sometimes come across socially who just seems a little awkward. Their conversation and behaviour does not give cause for concern or alarm, but it sometimes makes other people feel mildly uncomfortable, perhaps prompting them to make their excuses and move away quickly to find somebody else to chat to. Superficially, such interactions are of very little consequence. 

However, I began to think about how, whenever I’d found myself in a similar situation, I had rarely (if ever) paused to consider whether there might a reason or an explanation behind the other person’s perceived oddness or social awkwardness, perhaps rooted in their childhood or in difficult life experiences. Together, these two ideas led me to the character and the story of Eleanor Oliphant.

1 comment:

  1. I'm half way through Eleanor Oliphant and loving it so far. Brilliant read and great review, Anne.