Title: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Author: Gail Honeyman
Length: 325 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: June 5, 2018
Child Abuse, Verbal Abuse, Physical Abuse,
Bullying, Minor Stalking, PTSD, Alcoholism,
Attempted Suicide, Rape (off-screen),
Middle Eastern or Indian (not confirmed),
So this was the first book that the brand new Pastries & Paperbacks Book Club with my local library had for their September read, and gosh darn it I ended up finishing it on time for the meeting! Boo yeah, Leelynn! If you’re in the Hampton Roads area like me, and want to join, here’s more information!
Eleanor is our main character. At first glance, I know I thought she was on the autism spectrum just from her mannerisms and her thoughts, but it is definitely much more than that. She is not conventionally attractive, knows this but it doesn’t matter to her. She is completely fine depending on herself and being alone. Her only real social interaction is at work, buying her pizza and vodka from the Tesco Mart, and whoever may sit next to her on the bus.
Raymond is one of the IT guys at Eleanor’s workplace. He seems to be one of the few people that wants to get to know her beneath her idiosyncrasies, and actually teaches her how to be – and have – friends. Eleanor is initially not impressed with his outside appearance and tried on more than one occasion to get him to stop talking to her.
On the surface, and from what Eleanor shows us in the beginning, she is very blunt and logical with her thought process. She will say what she is thinking, has no filter, and thinks that everyone around her is terrible with regular social cues. In fact, she feels like while everyone may think of her to be a nutter, she is the most sane person she knows. She has been living on her own since university, and has a strict routine that she sticks with. However, that ends up changing when her computer at work stops working, and she ends up meeting Raymond – the IT guy that helps her fix her computer. From there, things start to change, and she realizes that she’s actually not “completely fine” like she was trained to be.
I really liked that there were characters like Raymond, Sammy, and sometimes even Laura that realized that Eleanor thought differently from them, but didn’t immediately write her off as crazy. Sure, they may have thought it in the beginning, but they ended up learning how to interact with her, teaching her some of the things that she didn’t learn growing up, and became friends with her. It was a found family in a sense, and I don’t think Eleanor realized it until later on in the novel.
I liked that Eleanor was able to get help for what she needed help with, and even though some people felt like it was too easy of a ending or a fix, I think it was good for what it was. Sometimes the ending doesn’t need to be something profound or spectacular. Sometimes it just needs to show that you need to take certain steps to make yourself feel better, even if it seems like a logical option.
All of the abuse in this novel. I’m glad that I was able to read this without having certain thoughts like I thought I would. And seeing that Eleanor really suffered from PTSD and seeing that she used logic and reasoning to shield herself from experiencing real emotions, I could understand why she seemed cavalier about the abuse she endured. Not just from her Mummy, but from her ex-boyfriend Declan as well. When she is explaining what she went through to Raymond, she is just very factual about it and to the point. It almost makes Raymond cry to see what she goes through, but to Eleanor, it is a simple fact. No emotions about it.
I just felt like Eleanor was really misunderstood because of course – she repressed everything that happened from the incident. And it was just really hard to her bad days and know that it’s… a point that I have felt and thinking about what would have happened if things didn’t end up the way they did in the book. What if she truly was alone, and didn’t have Raymond in her life, even though she thought she didn’t want him as a pal?
Well I already gave the book back to the library so I could get the next book and I didn’t take notes this time around because I was trying to finish on time – which I freaking did… 4 minutes before the meeting started so boo yeah, leelynn.
But I guess a lot of the parts where she was thinking about how her Mummy would have thought and how her Mummy shaped her thought process and that it wasn’t correct. Those held a spot for me.
This is one of those books that I feel like there should have been content warnings somewhere in the beginning of the book. I know that Eleanor ends up mentioning it throughout the book – as much as she is willing divulge at the time anyway – but just knowing how she talks about the abuse that she went through was really hard to read. From the untrained eye, and maybe someone that doesn’t realize that she’s suffering from major PTSD would think that she was okay with abuse, being on the receiving end of abuse, and that it was just a normal thing. She may have even thought that, but for someone that is extremely triggered to the mention of physical, sexual, emotional abuse to hear someone speak so light about it may not have taken it lightly.
This was a hard book to read, and I definitely understand if certain people don’t like it. I think Reese Witherspoon wants to make a movie adaptation of this but wants to play Eleanor? I say no. She’s too conventionally pretty to play her. I would say she could play Laura or something if she really wants to be in it, but not Eleanor. Even though I read this one kind of fast, I don’t feel like I rushed through this, and I had a lot of thoughts about it at the end.
- Adventures of a Bibliophile
- The Lexington Bookie
- The Busy Shelf
- The Wordy Habitat
- A Frolic Through Fiction
Ahh so wow, I feel like I should have recorded what happened at the meeting or something because we had a really good discussion! This was the first book and meeting for this new group, and it was such a great turnout! The library anticipated 10 people to join, and I think we had like 30 people discussing this book! It was amazing to see – although I was like the only POC in this group and I totally felt out of place – but I was able to make such great discussion points that I had to give myself a pat on the back. I would definitely go to the next meeting, and I’m excited to see what kind of other books they choose. I’m actually going to make some recommendations for some POC authors and books so we can get a better variety of books, not just celebrity book club choices. Nothing wrong with celebrity book club choices, but I want to read books that don’t get the kind of hype that others do.
I did bring up that I think there should have been some content warnings somewhere because of the abuse and the attempted suicide content in it, and there were people that attended – that didn’t read the book yet because our library didn’t have enough copies – that appreciated that heads up and said that it would have impacted their reading. I think this is so important, and I said that this is why I now am more intentional about including content warnings at the beginning of my reviews so people are aware from the get go as much as possible.
I guess I don’t really know what else to say about it! I didn’t take any other pictures because I’m still a little bit of an introvert in new groups like this, but the discussion went well. We were all civil and I didn’t see anyone thinking that someone else’s point of view was dumb or wrong or anything. I think our moderator did an amazing job leading the group – doesn’t hurt that she is a librarian and read the book twice so she was pretty knowledgeable on the book and the background of the author – and it was just a good group.
The venue that we are holding this group at was perfect and I love it so much. I think the only thing that bothered me a little bit – which I don’t know if they would have thought this way – is that they made a special “Eleanor” drink for the group which of course had vodka because that’s her favorite drink. However, that’s not just her favorite drink. That’s the drink that made her an alcoholic, and …. well spoilers. So I personally wouldn’t have chosen to make an alcoholic drink knowing that the main character suffered from alcoholism and that, but that’s just me. I may be reading too much into it. I didn’t try it.
Also since this was my favorite restaurant, I freaking ate so much food besides the free pastry that we got – which is pictured below (the cream puff) – that is not on their regular menu so you know I had to eat it. I had the mac & cheese snack, and a chifrijo bowl. I know. That was pretty much dinner and dessert and that helped since I didn’t really eat breakfast or lunch today. Or yesterday, for that matter.
Ha. I said I didn’t have much to say, but I feel like my recap of the meeting was longer than my review. Oops!