No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.
As with so many people I really loved Eleanor. I could really relate to her on the issue of loneliness and her worries around her mental health, feeling like she is “completely fine” were something I think a lot of people with MH will understand. Her problems were very relateable, but she also had a great sense of (unintentional) humour, and I loved the way Gail Honeyman played with language throughout the book. Eleanor often uses really funny, stilted language because she was never really properly socialised.
I think Eleanor goes on a great change in the way she views herself and how she fits into the world around her, and yet she stays true to herself – there’s no miraculous transformation at the end of the book, just a more positive outlook.
My favourite character was definitely Raymond. He’s such a sweet guy to Eleanor, even if she’s horrible to him, and he goes in with no preconceptions about her as a person – I think every lonely person needs a Raymond in their lives.
Just a small thing, but it was quite refreshing to read a book set in a real UK city that was outside of London!
I thought the ending of the book was especially good, because it was open to your own interpretation of where Eleanor will go next in her life. Too often authors try to tie everything up, but I feel in a more realistic story like this that would have been an off-putting finale.
In fact, I can’t honestly say I’ve anything I didn’t like about the book. It’s well over a week since I finished reading it and it’s still on my mind – the issues are so important in today’s society, and the simple but beautiful writing is easy to embrace.
I gave this book 5/5 – I think it’s my favourite read of the year so far, and I can’t believe it took me to long to pick it up. Definitely recommended if you want a realistic and heartwarming novel.