Recently, I read, and loved, Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It’s uplifting, heartbreaking and downright genius. Eleanor Oliphant’s mind is complex and contradictory: simultaneously full of confusion and certainty, denial and acceptance, darkness and light. She evolves as the novel progresses, and it’s encouraging to see a character with such a distorted view of both life and of herself change in a positive way and confront her past and her fears.
Eleanor Oliphant is a very unreliable narrator. She convinces herself that she is indeed “Completely Fine”. In reality, she’s struggling with the trauma of her past, the burden of being alone with no family, and the pressure of desperately trying to fit in with normal life. She’s a character that we may not relate to, but can empathise with hugely.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a novel full of shocking plot twists, especially towards the end. Honeyman spectacularly alters the reader’s viewpoint as she increasingly reveals more of the truth. Each time we find out something about Eleanor’s history, we understand her more, we see a bigger glimpse of why she behaves the way she does. The ending is bittersweet, with Eleanor accepting what she has been through and pledging to move on, but also acknowledging the sad revelation of what has really happened. The reader, like Eleanor, is forced to deal with the truth head-on.
The friendships in the novel are inspiring. There is a lot of love between its pages. Honeyman conveys a strong message: being judgemental gets us nowhere and a little bit of empathy goes a long way. We can learn a lot from that. The most important takeaway, however, is that kindness costs nothing but is worth everything.