This review contains spoilers.
“If someone asks how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoke to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”
Published: 2018, by HarperCollins.
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Contains: Strong Language, Death, Abuse, Child Abuse, Alcohol, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Suicide, Arson
‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ tells the story of thirty-year-old, Eleanor Oliphant, a woman who moves through life in a set routine. Split into three sections, ‘Good Days’, ‘Bad Days’ and ‘Better Days’, it narrates the process Eleanor goes through into remembering and accepting her difficult history, and her transformation into a healthier lifestyle.
In all honesty, if it wasn’t for the fact my university’s book club is discussing this book next month, I wouldn’t have chosen to read this title myself. My reading usually rotates around poetry and young adult literature, hardly ever dipping into the contemporary adult genre. However, I’m extremely glad I did.
Eleanor is a painfully relatable character, even if it’s only slight. She’s quirky and funny, sad and lonely, but an incredible protagonist. Eleanor being such an all-rounded character made this novel an absolute delight to read. However, her backstory is one that hit me hard, exploring abuse and mental illness in a brilliantly heartbreaking way. Told in first person, Eleanor’s history was drip-fed to readers, slipping it into discussion so slightly that it didn’t feel out of place. Nothing was dumped onto us, which kept me engaged to continue Eleanor’s journey.
The accurate representation of mental health was my personal favourite of the novel, exploring clinical depression in an incredibly detailed way due to the narrative viewpoint. Eleanor describes her pain bluntly, having a few difficult chapters of suicide yet is presented in an undesirable way. Honeyman describes the way Eleanor wishes to end her life in negative terms, mentioning the sharp teeth of blades and nausea of overdose accurately – there was no glamorisation. With this in mind, Eleanor is then taken into counselling with a woman named Maria, and is continuously accurate with the representation. Eleanor’s frustrations of being given an allotted time-slot to talk openly about her struggles is relatable, accurate and the use of language makes it humorous. Although, we’re gradually learning more about Eleanor’s dark past, it’s lighthearted. We can laugh with the protagonist, knowing it was ‘Better Days’ for her.
Eleanor’s character development is another brilliantly done technique, following the segments of the story and flowing through them beautifully. Although, it moves from good to bad, the change is not drastic enough for it not to seem like a completely different character; it’s still beautifully Eleanor. However, by the end of the novel, we see a marvellous change in her, she’s genuinely happy and we can’t help but feel incredibly proud of her.
Raymond’s character is another one I hold close. Since Eleanor was born, she has always stated how it was just her and Mummy, yet we gradually learn that that wasn’t necessarily a positive thing. However, after meeting Raymond, their bond begins to bloom, leading into a healthy relationship for the protagonist. Although, it’s not confirmed what their status is, the openness of their relationship was wonderful to read. We don’t feel cheated out on, allowing our own imagination to decide. (Personally, I think it’s more platonic.)
Overall, I adored this novel. Eleanor’s quirkiness warmed my heart and her journey is one I will carry with me for a long time.