For my birthday I got a bundle of cosy night-in goodies including a box chocolates, Lush bath treats and a curious looking package that clearly my husband had no part in wrapping. My gift was wrapped in brown paper, tied together with red bakers twine and a tag with the words ‘Blind Date With a Book’written on it. I was immediately intrigued. My husband picked it up from Waterstones. Inside is a mystery book which happened to be the first I’ve read in 2018 so far…
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a critically-acclaimed debut novel from Gail Honeyman. It was the winner of the 2017 Costa First Novel Award and Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award and has spent over 20 weeks on the Sunday Times bestseller list. It has been sold in over 30 territories worldwide and Reese Witherspoon’s production company has recently bought the rights to make it into a film. I must confess, my bookcase is so full of books that I’m on a mission to at least put a dent in some of them before I purchase any new ones, so I’ve not scoured Amazon for a new read in months. I’d never heard of this title and that was part of the fun of ‘Blind Date With a Book’. In fact, if I had heard of it I’m positive I would have been disappointed.
“It often feels like I’m a figment of my own imagination. There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock.”
I’ve touched upon loneliness and isolation previously on my blog when I was kindly invited to a tea party hosted by a lovely volunteer on behalf of Contact the Elderly. I know I’m guilty of taking seemingly monotonous social encounters for granted. For some, like Eleanor Oliphant, small acts of kindness like a reassuring smile, a warm handshake or a simple ‘thank you’, can provide a lifeline to the outside world. Eleanor is lonely but without self-pity, she is incredibly intelligent and yearns for social interaction but a world built on social pleasantries, conventions and cues can often be confusing. The concepts of self-acceptance, family and companionship are foreign to her. Eleanor isn’t elderly, she is barely 30 and in theory, I guess this makes her an unlikely candidate to be suffering from loneliness. As the novel progresses it is clear she is a strong but ultimately vulnerable person who relies on routine and vodka to help drown out the horrors of her past and to self-medicate her depression.
Don’t worry, this book isn’t entirely the heartbreaking sobfest I’m making it out to be. Just as in life, sadness is often disrupted by moments of humour, no matter how ill-timed and inappropriate. Eleanor’s musings on the frivolous lifestyles of Millenials, her appalling funeral etiquette, her awkwardness and brutal honesty teamed together with a mishap during a bikini wax, create moments of comedic relief despite the serious and often triggering nature of the book.
I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say this; Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is an incredibly life-affirming book that looks at both the best and worst of human nature with tremendous insight and compassion. Eleanor Oliphant is a wonderful, albeit rather eccentric, heroine who is very unique and a lot braver, stronger and loveable than she knows.
Have you read ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman?