Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Debut Sunday Times Bestseller and Costa First Novel Book Award winner 2017 Paperback – 25 Jan 2018
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‘A truly original literary creation: funny, touching and unpredictable. Her journey out of the shadows is expertly woven and absolutely gripping’ Jojo Moyes
‘Original [and] unexpectedly funny’ SUNDAY TIMES
‘As perceptive and wise as it is funny and endearing… Warm, funny and thought-provoking’ OBSERVER
‘A narrative full of quiet warmth and deep and unspoken sadness… Wonderful and joyful’ Jenny Colgan, GUARDIAN
‘Unforgettable, brilliant, funny and life-affirming’ Wendy Holden, DAILY MAIL
‘I adored it. Skilled, perceptive, Eleanor's world will feel familiar to you from the very first page. An outstanding debut!’ Joanna Cannon
‘Hugely original, a funny and sad tale of a survivor who tackles the challenges of emotional reconnection with grave courage. Unmissable.’ SUNDAY EXPRESS
‘A truly original voice and so good on loneliness: I sobbed and sobbed’ Cathy Rentzenbrink
‘An outstanding debut about loneliness and the power of a little kindness’ MAIL ON SUNDAY
‘So powerful – I completely loved Eleanor Oliphant’ Fiona Barton
‘An absolute joy, laugh-out-loud funny but deeply moving’ DAILY EXPRESS
‘Heartbreaking’ Bryony Gordon
‘Deft, compassionate and moving’ Paula McLain
‘Heartwrenching and wonderful’ Nina Stibbe
‘Heartbreaking and heartwarming’ STYLIST
‘Brave, smart and funny… the most refreshing and heartwarming debut I’ve read in some time’ YORKSHIRE POST
‘Moving, funny and devastating’ THE HERALD
‘Quirky, witty and absorbing’ HEAT
‘Warm and funny, moving and deeply original, Eleanor Oliphant is completely marvellous’ Gavin Extence
‘A beautiful and delicate balance between funny and heartbreaking… restores your faith in humanity’ RED
‘You’ll laugh and cry reading this fine debut’ PRIMA
‘Impeccable’ Dawn O’Porter
‘Delightful, dark and moving’ Sarah Pinborough
‘Warm, quirky and fun, with a real poignancy underneath’ Julie Cohen
‘A stunning debut! I laughed, wept and reflected’ Lucy Clarke
‘Satisfyingly quirky’ NEW YORK TIMES
From the Inside Flap
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?
An astonishing story that powerfully depicts the loneliness of life, and the simple power of a little kindness
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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine reminded me strongly, despite its rather darker subject-matter, of Graeme Simsion's hit debut The Rosie Project. I felt very lukewarm about The Rosie Project, and my opinion of this novel is likely to be equally unpopular. It reads very smoothly - I'd finished it in a couple of days - and it encourages you to keep turning the pages. But its impact relies on easy, repetitive emotional notes, such as the numerous times Eleanor is touched by somebody showing her kindness or even attention. Eleanor's voice, too, begins as distinctive but quickly becomes dull due to lack of development. Rather than trying to create a truly complex character, I felt that Honeyman frequently went for the simple targets; a funny diatribe against musical theatre or an incomprehension of bikini waxing. Often - as with Don Tillman's narration in The Rosie Project - the humour did not seem to stem organically from Eleanor herself but from an author who's winking at her readers. I suppose, in short, I did not believe in Eleanor as a character. Like Don, she's a narrative device; socially awkward enough to be funny, not awkward enough to actually face restrictions on her day-to-day life once she's resolved her psychological problems; suddenly perceptive when she needs to be, but not when she doesn't. Emotional depth is consistently foreshortened by simplistic humour.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is a fun, easy read, but it's basically standard chick lit with a twist. (This is not intended to be insulting to good chick lit; indeed, the best chick lit novels I've read have dealt with equally dark subject-matter in a far more interesting way than Honeyman manages here - I'm thinking, in particular, of some of Marian Keyes's work.) It would be a good holiday read, it passes the time, but there's very little below the surface. For a much better take on a narrator with similar problems, I recommend Lottie Moggach's Kiss Me First.
Eleanor tells us (and we have no reason to disbelieve her) that she READS WIDELY, watches television, listens to the radio (Radio 4, and not just The Archers), Which? magazine, travels by bus, uses a computer at work. And most importantly, does cryptic crosswords and read The Telegraph every day.
The first oddity is when she wants to buy a device and when the assistant asks her if she wants a laptop, desktop or tablet and she has 'absolutely no idea' what he's talking about. Huh? She uses a computer and also travels by bus (has she never seen someone use one?) and watches TV... and, when doing the crossword have those words never once come up? Her lack of curiosity is also inconsistent with someone who READS WIDELY.
Then.. she's never head of The Grinch and shows no curiosity about it. Any crossword solver would want to correct the omission.
She has never heard of SpongeBob Square pants. Has she been living in a bubble? Emphatically NOT.
She doesn't know toilets are sometimes called Powder Rooms. Where has she been? Not on planet Mars, or in a ditch, but reading widely, watching TV, listening to Radio 4, reading the newspaper...
She doesn't know what the 'bits' are in orange juice, despite being an avid Tesco shopper, despite having had several foster homes, going to university - has she never had a glass of juice? Later she reveals herself to be fond of anti-oxident smoothies. How can she know about them and not know that orange juice has 'bits'?
And she likes bland food apparently, because she eats mostly spaghetti hoops. But a few pages later she buys wasabi nuts. She also knows a lot about Neurofen and the difference between that and generic products, but has no idea what Magners is - even after adopting it as her drink of choice (any wildly read cross word solver would be curious enough to know what they were drinking).
She assumes 'Zumba' is a person. Hilarious.
Possibly the most ludicrous clanger is that she thinks MacDonalds is owned by a Mr Macdonald (she's not joking, but I HOPE she is joking when she refers later to Mr Tesco).
Eleanor doesn't know what a high five is. It's in the dictionary, Eleanor. It was probably the 'new word of the year' a few years back, and you would have been interested. It crops up a lot on the TV you watch.
Her dealings with her fellow humans are equally unbelievable. She claims to be entirely ignorant and baffled by most polite chit and chat, and is contemptuous of most forms of social engagement. Her favourite author? Jane Austen - that genius of social observation, that expert on the minutia of meaning, nuance, and analyser of subtext. If the author is trying to tell us one can be interested in Austen and have no interest, curiosity or understanding of real-life interaction, then fine, but the idea is never explored, which makes me think it's sloppy.
And Eleanor's persistence at taking turns-of-phrase literally is at odds with her comprehension of Austen and also her ability to solve crosswords.
Lest you begin to dislike Eleanor's pomposity and misanthropy, have no fear, she relentlessly reminds you how awful a life she has had, and continues to have, so you can't dislike her, can you? Burns on her face, sexual and physical abuse from both mother and boyfriend, social isolation, a mother who continues to be abusive, and if that's not enough, Eleanor was conceived by rape. Not a page goes by when she doesn't play for sympathy 'I haven't been to a party for the best part of two decades' - in other words, since she was ten. She has 'never bought anyone a card'. She has scars on her heart too, but she hopes some undamaged tissue remains from which love can flow in and out.
Later a shrink tells her that children have 'emotional needs'. This is news to her. Really? Whilst 'reading widely' has this topic never come up?
One might conclude that the author wanted to portray a character that was full of fascinating contradictions, but my reaction to Eleanor is that she's just not credible. Sure, some of what she says and does is 'funny' but for me, comedy has to come from truth. Believing there's a Mr MacDonalds might (I'm afraid) get a few laughs, but it's at the expense of creating a character we can believe in.
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The best book Iv read in a very long time.