“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 happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled existence. Except, sometimes, everything…”
If you would have asked me to review this book mid read, you would have had a completely different review, then what I am about to give you right now. The first few chapters took me over a month to read, but the last half of the book took me two days in total.
Initially, I was gripped by the opening paragraph, it intrigued me, but on about chapter four I just couldn’t connect with Eleanor at all. Eleanor was completely disconnected from the world, I just couldn’t understand how someone who had her head constantly in a book, newspaper, or was listening to the radio would have such a hard time understanding simple social skills. How could someone who was in their late twenties to early thirties not know what a McDonalds was or Sponge Bob Square Pants? However, the more I read, the more I started to see that in this moment you needed to be bored, because that’s exactly what Eleanor’s life was; boring. A lot of her actions also seem to be triggered from mental health issues which she had not fully dealt with, due to her trauma with her mother and the accident. Luckily, by the end of the book she had pursued professional help, which in turn changed my general opinion about her. It came to my realisation that the reason she might have not known such trivial things, was because they were most likely related to her sister, which she had completely blocked out of her mind.
When I hit chapter thirteen, I was completely and utterly gripped again. At this point we had met Raymond and even though he came across as a lazy middle-aged man, you couldn’t help but love his passion and laid-back attitude he had towards Eleanor. He also seemed very patient with her, even in the early days of their friendship, there was a bit of miscommunication but once he understood how Eleanor’s mind worked, which he took time to understand, he knew what she was always trying to say or do. Even when he only knew her for a couple of months, he was still willing to help her any way he could. I also loved the fact that Gail Honeyman kept their relationship generally platonic, even though it was hinted, that Raymond could be a possible love interest, you got to see them both grow as friends first. As they got closer, you saw Eleanor’s critical mind slowly disappear, and she saw that behind Raymond’s teen-style t-shirts, he was in fact a well put together guy. Plus, he got her a cute little cat and cleaned her up after her worst days, without judgment, must I say more.
Her obsession with her, band playing non-lover, was borderline crazy and at times made me very uncomfortable and slightly embarrassed for everyone involved, for example, her need to tweet about Tesco’s Clubcard’s, her need to go to his apartment and her need to tell everyone she was already seeing someone when they hadn’t even met yet. When Eleanor came to this realisation herself, I couldn’t help but feel a little relieved. I guess to a point everyone can relate to her in a way. Yes, she did go a bit overboard, but who hasn’t let a fantasy about a possible love interest get a little out of hand. Okay, so I don’t know many people who have tracked down someone’s apartment and gained access to their building, but I do know people that have stalked a person’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook page more than they should have. Guilty.
I would have also liked to have seen more on her abusive boyfriend Declan, I understand how abuse works and that people with those abusive tenancies have a way of getting in your head, but for someone who has strict rules about routine, it was hard for me to imagine her letting a total stranger into her house within, what a week? Or could her routine have stemmed from this? Either way, I wish I could have read more, so I could have a better understanding of how it only took a nurse, telling her it was wrong; then within 24hours have him kicked out and the locks changed.
The one foster family we got a tiny glimpse at, was another part that completely threw me off. How were the details of her case kept under wraps from them, when this information was literally a few clicks away on a Google search engine? I mean it took a random IT guy, who didn’t even have her real last name at the time, a matter of mere days to dig all this information up, so why this couldn’t be disclosed to the family fostering her was beyond me. Also, it had been pointed out several times that Eleanor has scars on her face, so for a child not wanting to clean out a fire place, I would have thought this would have been an obvious reason to why she wouldn’t want to do it. It seems like that was the only chore she was unwilling to do. I am also not going to act like I know every ins-and-outs of the foster system, so I do apologise if my take on these events have been misunderstood.
The overall brilliants of this book; was that you got to watch someone trying to cope with an absolute devastating event in their life, which in a way had caused them such loneliness, start to see that life was worth living. We got to witness Eleanor slowly opening up and letting people close to her in. I never thought an old man falling in the streets could have been such a blessing. Her relationships with Raymond, his mother, Sammy and his family were just what she needed to allow herself into the world, each of them bringing her out of her shell, one step at a time. I believe in a way, she needed to hit that low point in her life, for her to be able to accept that she needed help.
The big plot twist was of course us finding out that her mother had been dead all along, and that the ‘phone calls’ were just a way for Eleanor to cope with the death of both her mother, and her sister Marianne. One of my friends had a good take on this part of the book: She believed that the only reason Eleanor had all this pent-up guilt, was because she might have started the fire herself. I am very intrigued to know if anyone else felt this was the case?
For me, I think the guilt that Eleanor was feeling was typical survivors’ guilt. Her little sister was her life, and for her to run out of the house and only realize her sister wasn’t with her until she got outside, must have been overwhelming, and then for her to not be able to save her. I can completely understand why someone would have erased even the smallest thoughts of this person from their mind.
I also hope at one point we do get a book two. I would love to explore Eleanor’s relationship with Raymond and find out further information regarding her case and the accident. It was also announced that Reese Witherspoon’s company Hello Sunshine will be starting production on a movie for this breath-taking book very soon, and I must say I am really excited to see where they will go with it.
Even with, what I believe to be a few set backs on the plot, this book is definitely worth the read!