Saturday, September 30, 2017
Book Review: 'Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine' by Gail Honeyman
This book is about namesake Eleanor Oliphant, who is an office worker who struggles with social skills, but she's fine. She treats herself to a frozen pizza and some wine on Fridays when she's not having phone conversations with her Mummy. But then she meets Raymond, an IT specialist at her office, and after they help an older man named Sammy from a fall, they all begin to bond. I was expecting Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine to be a cutesy, relatable contemporary novel about a woman who is completely fine with who she is, not talking to anyone unless absolutely necessary (because, you know, that's totally relatable for all the introverts out there) and living her life as she wants to, until someone comes along and reminds her that it's okay to be more than just fine sometimes. But Eleanor Oliphant is so unlikable. I thought maybe she might be a tad high-functioning autistic or something at the beginning, but it's not like she doesn't know any better and that's why she is oblivious to social rules and norms. It's not even that she's oblivious. She knows, she's just rude and doesn't give a shit. And the author tries to make you sympathize with her by dropping these subtle foreshadows to her earlier life and why she might have ended up like this, but even when all of that is revealed to the reader in full, I still didn't sympathize with her. She was still unnecessarily bitter and just plain rude (which means a lot coming from me, King of Bitterness).
Another thing I wasn't expecting from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the fact that it's very British. I don't usually have an issue with English books that take place outside of North America, but the fact that Eleanor Oliphant is British seems to contribute to her bitter and rude personality which just made my experience reading this book all the more worse. In other words, her bitter and rude behavior really didn't seem all that foreign or alien-like because I've read other British books with British characters similar to her, but the whole point was supposed to be that Eleanor Oliphant was blatantly different from most full-grown adults and "oblivious" to social norms. It didn't work and didn't come across that way.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine also reminds me of another book I've read that I didn't really like, Invisible Ellen by Shari Shattuck. Despite my not liking that one, the title character in that book is more relatable and easier to sympathize with; she's overweight, has been abused her entire life, and feels like she is undeserving of love. The thing that made me dislike Invisible Ellen was the fact that the main point of the story ended up being Ellen and her new blind friend solving little crimes they notice happening around them. Ruined it.
In any event, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine didn't work for me. Based on the fact that most people on Goodreads have rated it 4 and 5 stars, I'm in the minority here, but I guess it just wasn't for me. Meh. 2/5 stars.