Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Believe the hype - worth every star
It's very rare I dish out a five-star review. I keep that final precious glittering luminary for those novels that fulfil all my stringent criteria;
- Is the story well laid out and structured in such a way to keep me a) guessing and b) turning pages
- Did I care about the characters, their goals and dreams
- How well is it written? I can't abide bad line writing or poor editing
- And finally, did it surprise me. Leave me thinking about its message or meaning, long after I've turned the last page
And boy, did Gail Honeyman pass with flying colours on all of these accounts.
Eleanor is odd in every sense of the word. She's opinionated, brusque, not very likeable - initially, which I appreciate some reviewers have said made her difficult to relate to. But then Sherlock Holmes is not a loveable protagonist either - yet we love him for all his quirks, and I feel it's the same here.
I have to commend Gail's ability to reveal character through action, rather than dump a whole load of exposition onto us in one long monologue. If I read one more character description as they've walked past a mirror ... #rollseyes.
Eleanor formed in my mind through her interaction with those around her. For example, here's a line where Eleanor is feeling awkward leaving her office. "I bent down and pretended to refasten the Velcro on my shoe. I took as long as possible, hoping he would take the hint." I read that and suddenly could picture this social awkward middle-aged, (clearly damaged), woman, wearing velcro shoes - and I got it instantly and it just drove me on to find out 'Why was she like this? What has happened to her? Why the heck would she wear Velcro shoes for heaven's sake?!
The story itself is charming and heartbreaking in equal measure, but the friendship that blossoms between Eleanor and Raymond is sweet and pitched just right, and I loved the ending, although I suspect others won't, but I felt it was perfect for the characters.
Although I did guess the twist, I'm not deducting any stars for that as I love to analyse story, and it was written in such a way I suspect most readers would have dropped their coffee in their laps when Eleanor's secret was revealed.
All in all, a masterclass in modern storytelling. Superbly written, a great 'Women's fiction' yarn about a socially awkward contemporary middle-aged woman who finds her own truth and faces up to her own demons.