Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant – Gail Honeyman (2017)
Bronze Anthology Book Review
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman (2017)
How do you respond when someone asks how you are doing? Do you say fine? Whether or not you are actually fine? That is Eleanor Oliphant. She is fine. She is really not fine – it is painfully clear that she is not fine – but that is the face she wants the world to see and the mirror to show. Hence, the following self-talk:
“I do exist, don’t I? It often feels as if I’m not here, that I’m a figment of my own imagination. There are days I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in the dandelion clock.”
“I have always taken great pride in managing my life alone. I’m a sole survivor – I’m Eleanor Oliphant. I don’t need anyone else – there’s no big hole in my life, no missing part of my own particular puzzle. I am a self-contained entity.”
How can someone feel both insecurely tethered and confidently grounded to reality? You can’t, which becomes abundantly evident as Eleanor Oliphant comes to see her true self.
In Three Words
It is not until half way through the book that you begin to connect with the main character. At which point, it is debatable whether the connection is because of the amount of time spent with her or a genuine understanding of her. To elaborate, she has several rants that are relatable, like the overall decline in communication (e.g. the use of acronyms like LOL and OMG), but there are even more situations that are painful, like her social ineptitude (e.g. gifting a playboy or a used bottle of vodka). Clearly the author developed a unique main character, but it requires a dedicated effort to appreciate that uniqueness.
Several positive messages emerged at the end of the book, such as facing the past and appreciating the present, but those messages are both fleeting and predictable. The majority of the book is spent on Eleanor’s whack-a-doo behavior and it is mildly alarming when, at about the halfway point, her behavior begins to make sense.
Our Bronze Star Rating
It is a good read for anyone that has felt isolated or misunderstood. It is not a good read for anyone that is disinclined to be patient with a fictional character. Overall, it is a three bronze star read; minus a star because it is not a book I would re-read given the predictable ending and minus a second star because of the struggle to connect with the main character.