reviews

REVIEW: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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Released May 18th, with HarperCollins.

This book was spectacular. I read it in a day, even though I was at work for most of that day. Over my lunch break, and when I got home and then late into the night – too late, probably, but it was absolutely worth it. It was without a doubt one of the best books I’ve read this year and one of the best debuts too. Although nothing’s going to topple The Hate U Give for me, this is probably my favourite non-YA debut I’ve read this year.

I saw a Goodreads reviewer say that this novel reminded them of Otessa Moshfegh’s Eileen, which I can understand. Both protagonists are prickly and difficult and faintly pathetic and sometimes disgusting, and the writers let us see them as the world sees them through clever throwaway lines. But Eleanor is much less revolting than Eileen, and considerably more sympathetic too. She feels more and more like a lost soul as the book moves on, even as she’s unpleasant and completely fails to understand the normal rules of interaction. What really impressed me about this book was the way that I as a reader was thoroughly taken on Eleanor’s journey with her. I wanted the best for her; every time her plans for her future with Johnny were mentioned I was anxious and desperately hoping that she wouldn’t humiliate herself too badly.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this novel was the way that Eleanor changed throughout it and how she developed. I thought that her arc was interesting and extremely satisfying – and the way that the details were revealed about her life was cleverly done. There was one twist that really sincerely surprised me, which I really enjoyed as I felt as though it would all turn itself out as I was expecting it to.

My only slight issue with this book – and it is slight – was that I felt as though the ending had something missing, as though it was all tied up too neatly or quickly. But perhaps that was just because I wanted more of Eleanor and of Raymond too, and of their relationship which was so much fun to read. Speaking of Raymond, he was such a brilliant character. I feel as though I have met him several times, and probably not paid enough attention to him. What I liked the most about him was his sheer ordinariness and the clever way that he was described and how the reader knows the truth about him and understands him far before Eleanor does. Writing a character who’s as un-self aware as Eleanor is and doing it so successfully is a really big triumph – not least because Eleanor was so likeable despite the way that she was.

This book was easy to read – in a great way – and compelling both in its plot and in the emotional arcs of the characters. I’m really excited about recommending it to everyone who comes into my branch of Waterstones. It’s a really great debut and, specifically, the sort of book that I absolutely love – the sort that proves that no matter what your plot is (although this plot was good), a novel is pretty much nothing without a great central character. I’m going to remember this book, and Eleanor, for a long time.

 

The proof of book was sent to me earlier in the year (thank you!). This is a completely honest review.

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