‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman – The Reclamation of a Woman

 

‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman (2017) – 325 pages

‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ is a phenomenon. Why do I say this? The main gauge I use to determine a book’s popularity is the number of holds it has on it in the Hennepin County Library system. Hennepin County contains all of Minneapolis, Minnesota as well as many of its largest suburbs. The number of holds are the number of people who are waiting in line to check the book out. Currently ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ has 510 holds on 90 copies of the book. This is comparable to the number of holds there would be for a brand new novel by a famous author. Yet ‘Elizabeth Oliphant is Completely Fine’ is a first novel written way back in 2017. Only such phenomenons as ‘Gone Girl’ have these kind of numbers after three years. And best of all, ‘Elizabeth Oliphant’ qualifies as substantial literature.

The fictional character Eleanor Oliphant and I shared a similar problem. We were both standoffish. Both of us went about our business quite competently but avoided other people as much as possible. Eleanor had much better reasons for her standoffishness than I ever did. You will have to read the novel to find out her reasons. Eleanor has built a psychological wall around herself which effectively keeps most other people out. Eleanor has poor social skills and unrealistic expectations.

I had no one, and it was futile to wish it were otherwise. After all, it was no more than I deserved. And, really, I was fine, fine, fine.”

For me, I gave off these vibrations to others indicating that “If you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me.” I kept myself at a distance from others as does Eleanor.

This is the story of a young woman awakening from her standoffish life.

Your voice changes when you’re smiling, it alters the sound somehow.”

‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ is refreshing because it contains something you don’t find often in modern fiction, a good man. A good man is hard to find in modern novels or stories. At times like these, it is difficult to remember that there are still any decent people in the world. Raymond is a positive force in this novel.

I suppose someone could argue that the story in ‘Eleanor Oliphant’ is not very sophisticated. I do not see sophistication as a necessary or even desirable attribute of literature. Rather I see stating situations as simply and clearly as possible as one of the hallmarks of good literature, and that Eleanor Oliphant does.

‘Eleanor Oliphant’ is a poignant and affecting story.

 

Grade:   A+

 

11 responses to this post.

  1. I must admit, I’m rather surprised you gave this an A+! I found it OK, but I do like your point about Raymond being a good man which I agree with. There was a huge thing in the UK about it being an example of ‘uplit’ which I don’t think it was quite. I read it while the hype was rife – maybe that’s why it didn’t gel so well for me.

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    • Hi Annabel,
      I suppose that is one of the problems with grading fiction. If something resonates with me I like it a lot, a lot more than something that doesn’t resonate with me.
      I did find it uplifting, this woman dealing successfully with deep-seated problems resulting from a terrible childhood.
      I didn’t realize there was much hype about ‘Eleanor Oliphant’.- I don’t follow Oprah.

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  2. I still haven’t read this, though I have had it for over a year. Glad you liked it so much.

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  3. I remember hearing about this book on the radio…
    The world is a hard place for introverts. For most of my young adult life I thought there was something wrong with me and I tried very hard to be like all the extraverted people that were around me because I thought they were ‘normal’ and I was not.
    It wasn’t until I went on a women in leadership course and did the Myers-Briggs test that I learned that actually introverts have a lot of very positive qualities (and actually make very good leaders) that I realised that I didn’t need to change myself at all:)
    If this book makes other people realise that we don’t all need to be the same, then that’s a very good thing.

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    • Hi Lisa,
      I suppose the turning point for me occurred in 2002 when I discovered this automated bar trivia game which a number of bars in our area have. It turned out I was very good at trivia, and I really enjoyed playing the game. I met a lot of people who were also playing. Now I still do this trivia 3 times a week usually with friends and also play on a live trivia team one night a week. All this trivia brought me out of my shell. Now I’m quite comfortable in social situations.
      Now the problem I have to deal with is spending all that time in bars. 🙂
      I don’t believe I have ever taken the Myers-Briggs test

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      • As anyone who’s ever worked with me will tell you, I’ve never been shy. I’ve addressed dozens of conferences with huge audiences and it doesn’t bother me a scrap.
        Because that’s not really the definition of an introvert. An introvert is just someone who prefers (in my case *needs*) time on their own, and enjoys social occasions with a small number of good friends rather than parties. (I’m a wonderful party guest because I’m the one in the kitchen doing the dishes to escape all the people!) I can do small talk (even about sport though I take no interest in it at all), but I prefer not to, I like to have in-depth discussions about significant things.

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        • Yes, I can see the difference between a person being shy and a person being introverted. Apparently you never had difficulty putting yourself forward, but you were content with your own company and didn’t need or want small talk.

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          • Yes, that’s right. But I am a bit of an extreme because I have a strong need for private time and being out of that comfort zone is literally exhausting. It was weird that I was a teacher, surrounded by wall-to-wall people all day long, but of course introverts make excellent teachers and managers because we are so good at listening to other people.
            If you are interested you can take the MBTI online for free (just Google it) but the real value of doing that is that the questions you are asked show you the kind of characteristics that you might recognise in yourself, and then you realise how normal they are.
            The MBTI isn’t highly thought of by psychologists (for good reasons) and it is often misapplied by people who think that it’s defined their personality which is then set in stone, which of course is not only nonsense but also ignores the suggestions that you get if it’s administered by a professional that you can work on aspects revealed by the test if you think you want to. But for all its flaws, I found it liberating:)

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  4. Oh, I liked this one too. A rare case of a book living up to the hype. I’m an introvert too and like Lisa I hadn’t clocked that it was “normal” until I did the Myers-Brigg test when I was 21. I need “me” time to recharge my batteries. I’ve often held jobs where I have had to be “switched on” and while I can do the leadership thing and pretend to be extroverted and outwardly confident I find it utterly draining. Reading books is a good way for me to find the balance between the public me and the private me.

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    • Hi Kim,
      Since both you and Lisa had a good experience with the Myers-Brigg test, maybe they should give it to everyone. Reading is mostly a solitary activity, and I think it is a good thing when one can entertain oneself without depending on other people.

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