Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
The main character Eleanor is a single woman working as an administrative assistant, and living alone. As the story develops, it is clear that Eleanor is a socially inept loner with a sad past. She and a work colleague, Raymond, come across an old man, Sam, who has collapsed in the street and together they look after him and get him to hospital. This event changes Eleanor’s routine, and she soon finds herself drawn into becoming more socially involved with Rodney, and with Sam and his family.
“If someone asks you 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 spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”
“I find lateness exceptionally rude; it’s so disrespectful, implying unambiguously that you consider yourself and your own time to be so much more valuable than the other person’s.”
“Obscenity is the distinguishing hallmark of a sadly limited vocabulary.”
“No thank you,” I said. “I don’t want to accept a drink from you, because then I would be obliged to purchase one for you in return, and I’m afraid I’m simply not interested in spending two drinks’ worth of time with you.”
The Guardian: “Strangely, for a novel centred on an oddball whose life has been knocked off kilter by an unnamed childhood horror which she can only recall from her sense of its “before” and “after”, Eleanor Oliphant satisfied a yearning for the feelgood fiction that publishing insiders have dubbed “up-lit”.”
Readings: “Gail Honeyman’s novel is indeed witty (I laughed out loud several times) but it is also gut-wrenching, moving and completely surprised me. As the title suggests, this is a book about ‘what is underneath’ and explores the psychological effects of childhood trauma through the fascinating protagonist Eleanor Oliphant. Eleanor carries both physical and emotional reminders from her past; Honeyman gradually feeds us information (Eleanor’s scars, her weekly Wednesday phone call with her mother) till we feel we have the whole story, only to continually realise that we don’t. Some readers may find Eleanor a little isolating (at least initially).”
This book evokes a strong emotional response – heartbreak, sympathy, outrage – due in part to a writing style that depicts Eleanor’s world so clearly that the reader feels totally involved in her daily life, so that as her past is revealed, we are right there with her, urging her to claim a happy life. The dialogue adds to the realism, with lots of humorous exchanges, particularly those involving Eleanor’s social misunderstandings.