Book review: Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine

Reading has always been a great pleasure of mine but I’ve devoted less time to it since becoming a mother. The books I have read have been short and flimsy – poorly written rom coms: junk food for the mind. I’ve been craving something more so was delighted when TodayIPrimed launched a book club with Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine as its first book.

The book centres around Eleanor Oliphant, an aloof and often rude accounts clerk. Her life runs on a routine that seems mundane and lifeless. Is this woman actually a robot? I was not convinced by her at all. Then she mentions the 2 bottles of vodka she consumes each weekend, waiting for the great expanse of nothingness to pass. Suddenly she seemed more real – she did have feelings, but they were clearly buried deep.

From the outset, it is clear that something awful has happened to Miss Oliphant although she doesn’t even mention it in her thoughts so it is hard to know what exactly happened to make her into this robotic and strange woman. At times, I really felt like I would end up hating her – I thought that she was hiding away from the truth because she was the one to blame. The puzzle of Eleanor Oliphant kept me reading as I was desperate to know her better and willed her to be brave and open up. The book’s plot circles the question – who is Eleanor Oliphant and what on the Earth happened to her?

At times, I had to reach for Google translate as foreign words and unusual vocabulary was thrown in with absolutely no thought for the reader. I loved how I got to experience what it must be like to have a conversation with her – bemusing and confusing! I was so happy when I understood why the word Shinkansen had linked 2 events together. Having lived in Japan, I knew this meant bullet train – a very high speed train. It felt wonderful to be on the same page as Eleanor, if only briefly.

As the story unfurls, different characters slowly shine more light on who Eleanor really is and the burdens that she bears. Her awful mother says things that no mother should say. In fact, the only voice that matches hers in its cruelty, is the voice I use to speak to myself when I am at my lowest. Learning about the abuse Eleanor must have suffered at the hands of her mother is heartbreaking, and slowly, I found myself rooting for her. I started to love her quirkiness instead of finding her rude.

You will find yourself wanting to shout at her and be incredibly frustrated. You will also be touched by the kindness of people. Well done, Raymond for being such a gentleman. It serves as such an important reminder to be kind always – you don’t know what people are going through. In the end, I put the book down in floods of tears, desperate to hug Eleanor for her bravery. It left me wondering about myself and the walls I have put up and the scars I carry. It made me feel grateful for the people I have supporting me. I miss Eleanor now that I’ve finished the story which for me, is always the sign of a good book.

NB The book contains themes of emotional and physical abuse that will be hard for some readers. As a survivor of domestic abuse, I would normally steer clear of this topic for fear it would act as a trigger, but in this instance in is handled with sensitivity and care. I felt uplifted.

Now I just need to make it through a few more of the books in my bedside pile!


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