Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine – G. Honeyman

“Grief is the price we pay for love.”

This week is a 3/3 on my New Years Resolution Scale! It is a book written by a woman, purchased in a Charity Shop, and definitively not something I would have picked up.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t seen it before. I must admit, I do like to check what books people read on public transport. Hey, if you like books as much as I do, it’s fun seeing what people read! (and who reads what, but that’s a topic for another day.)

Eleanor Oliphant – I will not type out the full title of the book every time – was fairly popular around summer last year. But it honestly wasn’t on my radar until I was getting a bit desperate in the charity shop. Now that I have read it, am I glad I did?


I mean, it’s a well-written book. Apparently it was shortlisted for Prizes even as a work in progress. Reese Whitherspoon (yes, that Reese Whitherspoon) has purchased the film rights to it – so brace yourself for the movie adaption. It is, by all intents and purposes, a good book.

Its readership must overlap tightly with The Rosie Project. Both books have a lot in common – where the Rosie Project was following a (probably) Autistic guy on his search for true love, Eleanor Oliphant is the story of … well, Eleanor Oliphant.

Eleanor has everything she needs. She has a job, a flat, a strict meal regimen and a potted plant. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her careful existence, or so she thinks.

It soon becomes apparent to the (ordinary) reader that Eleanor’s life is pretty awful. She doesn’t have any family, any friends, any social interaction at work. She exists rather than lives her life.

Of course, all of this changes when she falls in love.

That’s the book. I think part of the appeal is that, at the beginning, the reader thinks Eleanor’s life is pretty similar to their own. After all, don’t we all think we should be more outgoing, should have more social interaction, are too careful in what we are doing?

But by the third chapter, it’s clear that Eleanor is playing in a league of her own. Like. She does not have ANY friends, or even acquaintances. It makes you feel good about yourself, no matter how miserable your life is.

Which annoyed me a bit, because making your reader feel better about themselves by making your main character’s life miserable is a cheap shot. But okay.

So Eleanor ventures out into life, often gets basic social conventions wrong (when invited to a birthday party, she brings cheese as a gift, because ‘all men like cheese”.) And I think it attests to the writer’s skills that you are never annoyed by Eleanor’s shtick, you are always vaguely amused.

She doesn’t know better, after all.

(Another thought – would we really be this magnanimous in real life? Or would we laugh about Eleanor and gossip behind her back? I’d like to say that I wouldn’t, but I can’t say for certain. This woman is WEIRD.)

So overall, this is a funny ‘outsider comes to grips with society’ story. I prefer the ‘society comes to grips with outsider’ stories, but this book isn’t half bad.

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