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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant.jpg

I offer thanks to a couple of friends who visited the cottage this past summer and recommended Gail Honeyman’s novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine! They loved it – and so did I.

A painful wrist has been distracting this fall, and I’ve been picking up one book after another, not able to settle to anything – until I picked up Eleanor Oliphant.

Eleanor is a complicated character, a woman just turning 30 years of age, who has had a very difficult past. This past is slowly revealed as the novel progresses.

This book might be considered darkly humourous, and it is both. Eleanor had a traumatic childhood, and is still suffering the results of her mother behaviour. After a tragedy that occurred in England when Eleanor was a ten-year-old she moved to Scotland, and under the supervision of the state, was raised in a variety of foster homes before going to University. Since her graduation she has worked in Glasgow in the office of a Graphic Design company. Her days are all the same, and her weekends as well. She spends most of her time alone. She is considered eccentric by her co-workers, who sometimes mock her. But, she is a smart, smart woman and is well aware that she lacks what we’d call a “real life”. Deciding to do something about this she embarks on a campaign of self-improvement and the pursuit of a mate.

Eleanor’s life past and present is often deeply sad, and the injection of humour does hold it at bay most of the time. As the truth about the past is revealed and Eleanor herself must finally confront what happened to her and her family, it is often a very good thing that there is something to laugh about in the present day.

Early in the novel there is a scene involving Eleanor, innocently walking along the street when a man collapses in front of her. By chance a co-worker, Raymond, is there as well and rushes to help. Eleanor finds herself, somewhat unwillingly, assisting and they are both drawn into caring for the man. These are the first encounters Eleanor has had with other people in any meaningful way for several years, and they will open the door to emotions she had kept closed for most of her life.

Ultimately, this is a novel about a strong but vulnerable young woman who will melt your heart, and change the way you see others. As Gail Honeymoon writes, so wisely, and as Eleanor must accept, “Time only blunts the pain of loss. It doesn’t erase it”.

And as they say in Scotland (and Newfoundland) “safe home, now’.

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