‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ – Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant…a truly remarkable character.

Honeyman strikes a perfect balance in her portrayal of Miss Eleanor Oliphant. She is socially awkward, blunt to the point of rudeness, and has a clear defined structure to her life. All the signs point to her being on the autistic spectrum, possibly the quirky kind of character that you may find it hard to understand. Though it’s clear that people who encounter her think she’s somewhat bonkers, I never felt that we were given anything other than a sympathetic account of her.

The narrative is split into three sections: good days, bad days and better days. As you’d expect, we see Eleanor go through her daily life and we slowly come to see there’s a bit more to her than the surface oddness.

Our understanding of Eleanor comes as she becomes friends with her co-worker, Raymond. It would have been easy for this to turn into a romance, and I was pleased that Eleanor and Raymond’s relationship focused on the platonic bond, and the benefits to each of them of having someone to share things with. There were some genuinely funny moments as these two awkward people find a way to interact with someone else. Yet there were genuinely emotional moments that rather wrung me dry.

I felt somewhat awkward as I read about Eleanor’s visit to a salon for a waxing session, or her comment ‘it sounds gibberish’ to the hairdresser setting up her new style…there are definite traits that many of us could recognise in ourselves.

It’s not until quite late on in the novel that we learn the truth about Eleanor Oliphant, and by this point I admit to being quite beguiled by this woman. She is, indeed, completely fine.