This touching and sometimes heart-rending debut about a woman learning how to live is by turns funny, touching, and occasionally irritating.
I was given a NetGalley copy of this in exchange for an honest review. It publishes on May 18th from HarperCollins.
A stunning debut about a girl who has learned how to survive – but not how to live.
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is fine. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except sometimes, everything.
No-one’s ever told Eleanor life should be better than fine. But with a simple act of kindness she’s about to realise exactly how much better than fine life can be.
I mostly very much enjoyed this book. Eleanor is a kind of endearing character in that she functions, but doesn’t actually really live her life, and doesn’t even really know what she’s missing. Her naivete and obliviousness is by turns endearing and infuriating, and journeying with her as she discovers what it really means to live is a really very heart-wrenching journey of discovery.
Eleanor has lived a very sheltered life, being brought up in care from the age of 10 and working in the same job as an office worker since she was 21. Now 30, Eleanor’s life begins to change as she meets the man of her dreams, and as she begins to expand her life and social circle through her interaction with her colleague Raymond and a stranger they happen to meet.
I really liked being on Eleanor’s journey with her as she realised that the life she was living wasn’t all that it could be, and she started to unfurl from the pressured, tightly strung, compressed individual she was to blossom into a more rounded person. Part of her journey of discovery was highly entertaining, as she misinterpreted social norms and blundered her way through the most banal of social interactions.
But at the same time, her absolute obliviousness to not only social norms but also cultural context and awareness was occasionally infuriating, as with her mental framing of, for example, her experience at a Bobbi Brown counter, and her remarks on a manicure.
Generally, though, I was very touched by this heart-rending story of a child who suffered terribly and buried it all as she struggled her way through to adulthood without the guidance of a continuous nurturing presence in her life. Parts of the story were genuinely touching, as Eleanor delved into her past and began to embrace her future. I also very much appreciated the fact that her journey was not a linear progression, but showed the struggle and back-and-forth of any sort of personal development. Unfolding the stained and murky pages of Eleanor’s past with her felt like a journey of self-discovery that was by turns horrifying, bewildering, and infuriating, but always an odd kind of charming. I’ll definitely look out for more from Gail Honeyman – if her debut is this good, I can’t wait to see what comes next.