Literature Reviews

‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman (2017) – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra - I have lots to say about this book, though my feelings are mixed. It’s widely-popular with many, many loving readers, except unfortunately I don’t think that...

By Soyeenka Mishra

“As if a silver in the egg-and-spoon race was some sort of compensation for not understanding how to use an apostrophe.”

Warning: this book deals with topics such as depression. Although not heavily mentioned in the review, please bear this in mind. This review may also contain spoilers.

I have lots to say about this book, though my feelings are mixed. It’s widely-popular with many, many loving readers, except unfortunately I don’t think that I’d be counted under the same. This is the first time, perhaps, that I have taken so long to finish a book. It took me almost an entire week. The plot was densely mysterious from the start, but it took an awfully long time to unfold. I’ll admit that I was ready to call it quits at 25% through, but I trudged on only because of the fact that I hate giving up on a novel.

Aesthetic book arrangement by Soyeenka Mishra

Eleanor Oliphant, who wasn’t, in fact, completely fine (I know, right? Took me by utter surprise as well), initially came off as a very snobby and posh woman who looked down upon people. My very first impression of her was, “OMG, she’s the Karen of Karens!”. Eleanor is quite prejudiced throughout the book (but she does make an active effort to do something about it towards the latter half) and is quite knowledgeable.

She was just a little girl at heart who had been forced to grow too quickly, and even at the age of thirty, she hadn’t experienced half of the joys of life people half her age have felt long since. I liked the way that the author portrayed Eleanor’s depression. While there have been many variants and unique experiences of it published, I hadn’t read such a… physical description of it anywhere before, for lack of a better word. She had a very dark past, one she bore victory scars for. 

I really liked Eleanor’s way of speaking, too. Her way of viewing life. She didn’t understand the logic behind senseless social norms, and spoke her mind (often in a way that I perceived as funny). She enjoyed a good book and loved her cat (I totally love Raymond for getting her a cat, a black one at that!). While the snob inside her was only her witch of a mother’s voice, I liked who she was as a person. She had a very particular way for everything, and some might even describe her as eccentric. Nevertheless, you will eventually warm up to her at the end. If her personality doesn’t get to you, the puns definitely will!

In this book, the male love interest isn’t physically flawless and desirable at first glance, which is something I haven’t read of in many books (something that needs rectification ASAP), so that was a nice change. Raymond Gibbons made himself likeable to readers with the help of his personality alone, which is a commendable feat. Like Eleanor, there are some habits of him that are not improbably undesirable and noxious, but he’s a great man at heart, which is all that matters in the end.

This book had some very ‘real-life’ problems that were dealt with very logically (not the whole my-lover-cured-my-depression storyline) and tactically. Eleanor’s journey in therapy was a fruitful one and I’m proud of all the way she has come. That being said, there’s the problem of relating to the character, which I didn’t. I mean, for me, this time it wasn’t me putting myself in her shoes and living her life; it was just me reading her story, the story of Eleanor Oliphant. Perhaps it was because she wasn’t a feelingsy person, but I wasn’t completely absorbed in the book. I didn’t feel very… connected, if you will. It took me a painstakingly long time to make it till the end just because I wasn’t engrossed in the story enough. All in all, I’ll say it’s definitely a nice book with good writing, but I wouldn’t be picking it up for a re-read any time soon; as I say, I didn’t vibe with it.

Find the raw copy of this review here.

Image: Soyeenka Mishra

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