Friday, 26 January 2018

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Something of a Cinderella tale, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of a young woman emerging from the shadows of heartbreak and loneliness.

The story is told through Eleanor's eyes, and in spite of her cantankerous and pernickety narrative voice, she somehow manages to charm the reader - although everyone at her work thinks she’s a bit mental.

Eleanor is socially naïve – there are some very funny scenes, many to do with her plan to charm the lead singer in a local rock band, whom she secretly admires from afar. When she helps Raymond from IT save the life of an old man who has collapsed in the street, new doors open for Eleanor, but is she ready to step through?

Raymond is everything Eleanor is not. He’s a bit scruffy, smokes, is a little overweight but at the same time is unfailingly kind and understands the subtleties of social interaction. And Raymond’s mother, an elderly woman who lives alone with her cats, loves him to bits. The unlikely friendship between Raymond and Eleanor pushes the plot along as Eleanor finds herself interacting more with others and this leads to new opportunities. In the background, Eleanor’s terrible childhood at the hands of the worst mother imaginable is slowly revealed.

Would I have liked Eleanor so much if she hadn’t such a good excuse for being so difficult? I don’t know, but you can’t help but admire her stoicism, even if this means she’s had to suppress the feelings that reveal her kinder side.

Gail Honeyman has created a wonderful character who draws you into her world from the first page. The balance of humour with glimpses of Eleanor’s horrendous childhood keeps you reading, while the contrast between Eleanor’s crisp diction and the Glaswegian dialect of those around her adds plenty of colour. Shortlisted for a Costa First Novel Award, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is an impressive debut which delivers on many levels.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

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