I’ve recently read Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman for one of my bookclubs and it was so encouraging to read something by a fellow UK author – and more than that, a UK author who wrote a piece of quirky contemporary fiction rooted in the beautiful tragedies of everyday life.
Eleanor is a misfit and one who has been damaged by those who should have loved her most. But she comes through this and, as we all do, finds a way of coping with life, often in small yet heroic ways. She’s lonely, a big theme in the novel, and she finds social interactions hard – there are many hilarious set pieces in which she experiences things that most of us would see as very normal and allows us to see how absurd they really are. She is incorrigibly honest – the opposite of a people pleaser – which is refreshing but also makes life tricky for her as it does with all those who refuse to nod and smile and go along with things.
I love the friendship which evolves between Eleanor and Raymond: a relationship wonderfully void of cliche. A relationship which reminds us that it is possible for another person to save us by allowing those parts of us that we have shut down, usually out of self-protection, to come back to life.
My only reservation was that the mystery or secret revealed at the end of the novel was a little predictable, but maybe that’s because I’m a writer so I look a little too closely at the mechanics of a novel when I’m reading it. I hear that UpLit is becoming increasingly popular (as opposed to the darker GripLit of the past few years). As a writer of Uplit, I’m thrilled that books like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, is doing so well.