Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman | Literature & Fiction | This book has not been rated.
ISBN: 0735220700 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingedithdollwing of Winthrop, Massachusetts USA on 9/1/2019
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingedithdollwing from Winthrop, Massachusetts USA on Sunday, September 01, 2019
This is a book I finished a few weeks back, I think it had a moment of "it book" popularity a few years back.  "It books" are books you see everyone reading all of a sudden on the train and the bus and the beach -- although these days maybe not so much see them but people tell you they are reading them, etc.

Spoilers follow.

This book kept me on my toes.  I liked Eleanor right away -- she struck me as quirky and possibly on the Autism spectrum.  She seemed to be sort of rigid of how she lived her life in a certain order including what food she ate, from which takeaway (take out) restaurants and her social life consists mostly of reading -- she mentions both Bronte and Austen and watching videos.

Her job seems to be something that is part of her structure as well.  Something she sort of fell into and made the best of but has no yearning of change.  Even though she is part of the company which is the back office accounts and the creatives/high end folks don't really acknowledge her existence.  Eleanor seems to have issues with social constructs and interactions and is aware people know that and make fun of her -- which makes her self defensive on another level citing how people are often unjust and rude but does not motivate her to change.  However, Eleanor experiences two (2) life changing events which eventually alter the course she has been/is planning on continuing to charter in the course of her life.

The narrative opens with Eleanor aware there is some office gossip going on because she won some sort of a ticket giveaway and roped a co-worker into going with her to this free concert.  Life changing event #1: at the concert she had sort of  "a moment" perhaps more appropriate for a teen/or pre-teen she fell into a major crush/infatuation with the lead singer -- deciding that he was the perfect man for her.  Eleanor is in several tailspins here -- but also self aware of understanding how silly this crush is but also carrying this crush/dream and giving herself a major personal growth project in the hopes of transforming herself into someone this singer may find attractive.

The rest of the spins involve how she can transform herself superficially -- she seems to be trying to tackle it all herself as a lonely person -- again self aware that she does not really understand a lot of basic social concepts/interactions that are part of daily life and she struggles through them -- again often huffing how rude and impatient people are/can be.  And a lot of her blunders are inadvertent as she doesn't really understand nuance and tone -- it's almost like she is an android/machine trying to understand and fit in with human interaction and her AI chip needs to be reset at times.

The terrible loneliness factor here is what is driving the crush and Eleanor along with her strict habits of routine is drinking.  Weekends only it seems -- so I wondered if she was a functioning alcoholic -- until there is a visit from a social worker -- and a little more backstory revealed that Eleanor had some sort of a dark childhood event.  As the novel progresses we find that Eleanor still struggles with many fears including sleeping and the alcohol is what helps here get through the isolation of the weekends.  She also must be home to receive a weekly call/from her mother who is volatile/borderline psychotic and either in a mental institution or prison/which is unclear and apparently purposely presented as unclear.

Little bits of backstory including the foster home, state care and the finishing of university and being set up in her apartment with charity wares are all detailed.  Eleanor is amazing in her both her self awareness of dealing with the social system: teachers, counselors even to this day.  She is guarded and in some ways extremely efficient on how to present herself and her apartment with again rigorous cleaning of original furnishings she has been given but never cared to upgrade. It's almost like she is a careful caretaker of her flat -- because she doesn't want more or less or at the very least to be bothered and at the very worst to have it an/or her independence taken away.

Life changing event #2 -- seems more mundane at first, her computer breaks and the office manager warily informs her they have a new IT guy named Raymond.  She duly reaches out for Raymond to fix her computer.  Raymond doesn't seem to judge/isolate Eleanor from the beginning and makes several normal office friendly overtures to be acquaintances and one night leaving the office together at Raymond's insistence they stop and assist and elderly man Sammy that had a medical issue and fell.

Event #2 sets a lot in motion.  There are visits to see this man Sammy in the hospital, bonding with his family and his daughter Laura, who becomes both a friend and foil to Eleanor.  With Raymond -- Eleanor also becomes a friend meeting Raymond's mother and meeting him for lunch at work on a regular basis.  Their relationship is odd in the fact that Eleanor may be oblivious to Ray's feelings or so fixated on her dream/musician crush that she is again inadvertently missing a lot of important connections.

Still Eleanor experiences a lot of personal growth -- it is almost baby steps.  And the part about when she thanks Laura for her haircut/color and making her "shiny" that was a perfect description.  I often feel that way after I have gone in for my own clip/dip, etc.  To note, Laura helps Eleanor with her transformation/normalization but is also a foil in that she and Raymond at some point have something going on -- it's not really detailed and her efforts to ask Raymond about it are dismissed but it seems like that either had a short term fling/shag relationship at some point off stage -- if you will and they perhaps decided to mutually keep it from her -- maybe even to protect her (that is my own projection/theory there).

And despite new hair and clothes which are both cool/age appropriate, Eleanor realizes both the inappropriateness and futile nature of her crush on the musician rather quickly, combined with Sammy's funeral this sends off a drinking bender.  Raymond though steps up & takes care of her and Eleanor is touched when she takes a leave of absence from work and her office mates send well wishes and later welcome her back with flowers.

Post bender Eleanor continues with counseling and with the help of her counselor is able to confront the past and deal with her feelings/relationship about her mother -- there is a major spoiler around the mother and that is about all I'm going to say except -- that it involves again how I viewed her as a major character.  I would say that perhaps there was some mental illness above the social awkwardness -- schizophrenia or another more serious disorder present in Eleanor, but that is for each reader themselves to decide.

Despite the sad/dark themes the novel is very upbeat and ends on a positive upswing with Eleanor taking on a bigger job/role at work replacing the office manager, adopting a pet cat, finally clearing out/personalizing her flat and continuing her relationship with Raymond who has proved to be a good, loyal and patient friend -- it's unclear if it is going to progress into something romantic despite some up and down moments -- but actually that is pretty realistic for sometimes timing is off for folks to become more than friends, etc.

This was a great read, I look forward to reading more of her books.

Journal Entry 2 by wingedithdollwing at Winthrop, Massachusetts USA on Sunday, September 15, 2019
Sept 2019 released to another reader/bookcrossing meet-up member!

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