BabyMac Book Club: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine {The Discussion}

Oh Eleanor, you are so completely not fine, and yet are any of us at all? What a joy this book was to read! It has well and truly got me back into the swing of things with reading and has had me thinking about it long after I finished it. In fact, I think I’ll be thinking a little about Eleanor for some time. A sure sign of this book’s simple brilliance.

I hope you guys loved the book as much as I did and can’t wait to see what you all thought. Apologies for the delay in getting this to you…I blame life! But once I started, I pretty much read the book in two sittings. Let’s take a look.

Obviously there will be spoiler alerts here so if you haven’t read it, time to click away now before you scroll down any further…

Another debut novel, this time from Gail Honeyman (who incidentally discovered she could write from a writing competition and is in her 40s) I loved every bit of this novel from the characters, the plot and of course the old twist at the end. Interestingly, Reese Witherspoon has also bought her rights to bring this to the big screen…I’d love to see Eleanor bought to life. I think it would be as sad and funny as Muriel’s Wedding.

THE SUMMARY

Eleanor Oliphant is a young, lonely and extremely quirky and socially awkward woman who lives a very simple life and is completely fine. Except she’s not. She works in the finance department of a graphic design company in Glasgow from Monday to Friday, then heads home on a Friday night, eats her Tesco pizza, drinks two bottles of vodka, talks to no one for 2 days and then heads back into work on a Monday morning to do it all over again. She is completely fine.

“There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock. The threads tighten slightly from Monday to Friday.”

Eleanor’s life is interrupted by a series of events that rock the balance of her simple, lonely life. She falls in love with a rockstar she sees in concert and becomes determined that they are destined to be together. And she gets caught up in an accident with a stranger and her co-worker Raymond which starts an unlikely friendship and chain of events that bring all of Eleanor’s issues to the surface.

It’s such a great story, exploring some deep issues and with such wonderful characters and humour that you can’t help but get swept up into this little slice of lonely life.

THE CHARACTERS

Eleanor is such a wonderfully complex and socially awkward person that you just can’t help but fall in love with her quirks. She is FUNNY, has such interesting takes on modern day life and has a wonderful turn of phrase and use of language that she had me laughing out loud at times. Just don’t tell her! “LOL could go and take a running jump. I wasn’t made for illiteracy; it simply didn’t come naturally.” I found some similarities to The Rosie Project…who was also just as socially weird.

Eleanor’s simplicity and sadness made me ache for her. I wanted to look after her, make things better for her and I loved watching her journey of self discovery and of becoming a better version of herself.

I also loved the other characters: all who were just that, people. From her boss, to the man that worked at the corner shop, The rock star, her therapist, Raymond’s Mum, Sammy and his family and of course Raymond. They were all such relatable, normal people that made the story all the more enjoyable for me. A story of simple life, with simple people, of life really, and how we are all fine, or not fine in our own ways.

Eleanor’s Mummy was quite an interesting character too didn’t you think? Looming and scary and awful that had you guessing right until the very end.

What did you think of Eleanor?
Did you find her funny? Endearing? Frustrating? Heartbreaking?
And how about Raymond?
And let’s talk a little about Mummy…

NARRATIVE

The story is told in real time, first person so we know exactly what Eleanor is thinking at all times. How she made me laugh with her observations of our strange society we live in now. Her honesty and inability to have filters on ANYTHING she says and do show so many flaws in our own selves, not just her. I loved the use of language, the play on words and her turn of phrase. It was funny, smart writing. How was this Gail’s debut novel?

Of course there was quite a twist at the end and I must say it had me googling to be sure what I had read was right (I never said I was smart).

What did you think of the narration and flow of the story?
What did you think of the storyline of Eleanor and the rock star?
And what about the pace and tension throughout her “bad days”?
And can we talk about the twist at the end? Was it necessary?

THEMES

There were some central themes in the book that stood out for me.

Loneliness and mental illness
While there have been many books and characters in novels that explore different areas of mental illness, depression, anxiety etc I found it interesting to look at profound loneliness – especially in this time when we are all meant to be so “connected”. The deep issues that are raised are all done with sensitivity, with humour that are so clever I think.

Human relationships & love
Isn’t the basis for all of us, to be loved and to love? This idea is explored in so many different ways with different characters and their relationships. It’s complex, it’s hard, it’s messy at times and it really makes you think about your own life. I LOVE that the most about this book, that these strangers are all parts of ourselves, or people we know.

It’s never too late, for any of us 
The optimism in this book was perhaps my favourite thing of all. The idea and theme that it’s never too late, ever, for any of us is such an important and simple message. No matter how bad things are, or boring, or lonely, it’s never too late. I will thank Eleanor for the reminder of this.

What did you think were important themes in the book?
Any that you thought were particularly insightful/interesting?

I really loved this novel. As I said, I have been thinking about it a lot, about Eleanor and wondering how she’s doing which I must say very rarely happens to me when I read a book. I loved the characters, the simple story and moment in time and the optimism not just for Eleanor, but for us all. It’s never too late.

But I’d love to hear what YOU think! Did you enjoy the book? The characters? Themes? Narrative style? Plot? The twist?

Tell me EVERYTHING!

I will be doing a Facebook Live about this on WEDNESDAY NIGHT 8th November 2017 (figured it may be better seeing as it’s Melbourne Cup tomoz). Hope you can head on over and have a chat about it, I’d love to hear what you guys thought.

Comments

  1. I loved it. Demolished it while I was in a laundromat in Munich doing a big wash! Eleanor was so beautifully imagined and written. Gosh she was awkward! But I was rooting for her the whole time to break out of her routine. Such an amazing read and very much in the vein of The Rosie Project. Can’t wait for the next book from Gail Honeyman to be released.

  2. I was unsure about this one when I first started it but fell in love with Eleanor. She was so incredibly awkward and often had me laughing out loud.

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