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Previous Reads: Fiction > Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

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message 1: by Louise, Group Founder (new)

Louise | 680 comments Mod
This is the thread for our April group read. The theme was 'debut works' and we will be reading Gail Honeyman's first novel - Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Gail Honeyman
Gail Honeyman is a Scottish author. She wrote her debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, while working a full-time job, and it was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress. She has also been awarded the Scottish Book Trust's Next Chapter Award 2014, was longlisted for BBC Radio 4's Opening Lines, and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. She lives in Glasgow.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is currently being turned into a film produced by Reese Witherspoon.

Nobody volunteered to lead discussion for this book, so it is an open thread this month. I read the book early last year though so may pop in with some thoughts if things get quiet, though I can't promise I will remember details!

message 2: by Isabelle (new)

Isabelle (iamaya) | 88 comments Thanks Louise, for this introduction. I’ve just finished it and was totally under its charm and Eleanor’s charm at that. She would be quite surprised to know there are so many people liking her. However, when thinking of it, it seems to be too good to be true and I don’t think people, children to boot, who have been through what she had to pass through, can have a normal working life like hers with such an understanding boss. So, for me, it had a fairy tale aspect attached to that story. But it is still a feel-good story filled with humor, so it is worth the reading.

SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 6 comments I read this book last year and really loved it. Gail Honeyman can really nail a character, from a scruffy IT tech to a smarmy singer right the way through to a sassy black cat. And not just in the characters' voices but also in the tiny details of how they move, act and are seen through the eyes of Eleanor. And where do I start with Eleanor?! Such an awkward, frustrating and unlikeable character, who you can't fail to root for and grow to understand. This story unfolds with little quirks, and I couldn't put it down. It's tough and upsetting to read about loneliness and the impact of childhood trauma, but this book is warm and touching in its approach. The importance of human connection and kindness is the undercurrent of this story, like the electric blanket (which I'm sure Eleanor probably has) on a cold mattress.

message 4: by lethe (new)

lethe | 196 comments I got this book from the library yesterday. Looking forward to reading it.

message 5: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1698 comments Mod
There's an interesting Q&A with Honeyman at the Penguin website. Here's a link. You need to scroll down a little to get to it:

and from The Telegraph, a combination interview/feature on loneliness:

message 6: by Laurie (new)

Laurie Carol, thanks for the links. It's always interesting to see the author's take on her character.

I loved the book and Eleanor, the character. Her social awkwardness made her irritating qualities funny. I kept comparing her to various people I have known who also did not fit in to social groups well. I wanted badly for Eleanor to cut Mummy out of her life since she was so toxic. I did not see the denouement coming on that part of the story. There was so much about the story that was so sad, but ultimately it was uplifting and hopeful which was what I needed right now and why, I think, this book has been so popular. We need hopeful, inspiring stories and this fit the bill nicely.

message 7: by El (new)

El | 123 comments I just picked up a library copy of this today. Hope to start very soon.

message 8: by Sophie (new)

Sophie | 138 comments Eleanor reminds me of Sheldon in the The Big Bang Theory television series. Or, somewhat like Britt-Marie in books by Fredrik Backman. Although her past circumstances were pretty horrific, it's a hopeful story. I did not find Eleanor likeable but I would be in her corner.

message 9: by Eden (new)

Eden (edengoff) Finished this book and I liked it so much. The character development completely stole the show!

message 10: by PattyMacDotComma (new)

PattyMacDotComma I enjoyed Eleanor and her problems and how she managed to deal with them. I wrote a lot more in my review, but I will add that I was surprised to read one reviewer who was annoyed that the book upset her so much! Some people seem to think we're making fun of Eleanor, I think, but I don't see it that way at all.

Anyway, here's where my review is.

message 11: by El (last edited Apr 24, 2019 05:17AM) (new)

El | 123 comments I'm definitely one who felt that we are meant to laugh at Eleanor. A lot of that is because of how hilarious everyone seems to find the book. I found some of Eleanor's observations amusing, but never laugh-out-loud, and I felt that the moments I was probably meant to laugh out loud would have been mean-spirited.

I do agree that there was some great character development. And the book was definitely readable. But I didn't love it.

message 12: by Louise, Group Founder (new)

Louise | 680 comments Mod
Now I feel guilty for finding it so funny!

I read this a year or so ago, so I don't remember all details but I remember finding this both funny and uplifting but also hitting unpleasantly close to home and quite difficult to read on a number of occasions.

While I'm nothing at all like Eleanor (who I really love) and have none of her childhood traumas I found her loneliness and the lifestyle she had adapted to of not interacting with anyone socially at all outside of work (and barely there) was very similar to how I function(ed) when my depression is at its worst (minus the two bottles of vodka!). I've got myself a great support network of friends and family now, have learnt to recognise when my mood is slipping somewhere dangerous and and I'm pretty open about my mental health these days so it hasn't been an issue for a long time. But during my early twenties, when I was still deep in denial, I found that getting people I met past the 'aquantances' hurdle and into 'friends' was such an impossibility, and even keeping in touch with my existing friends too much (in my head if people wanted to be friends with me they'd instigate conversation/ask for my no. etc and if they didn't it meant I would just being annoying them if I tried to do so) that I could go weeks at a time without talking to anybody outside of my uni lectures, the internet, and the odd phone call with my family.

I think, much like the woman Honeyman talks about in her interview on the penguin website that helped inspire the novel, it's really easy, especially when there's something going wrong in your life to fall through that crack in society and find yourself stuck in a patern that's really hard to break. I remember finding sections of this novel that made me very uncomfortable in how relatable they were.

message 13: by SadieReadsAgain (new)

SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 6 comments I think being able to laugh is an important part of reading this book. It's a tough topic to deal with head on, and as someone who can relate particularly on the loneliness front, I appreciated the humour. It would be too bleak otherwise.

message 14: by Han. (new)

Han. (distractedbook) | 1 comments I really enjoyed this book when I read it last year. It was one of those books that centred on character building and progression so started off quite slow. However, halfway through it really picks up and the ending was amazing. I also adore any book that focuses on ASD - especially showing the way things are perceived by her, through her.

message 15: by lethe (new)

lethe | 196 comments I finished the book last night. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I had been afraid that it would be too chicklitty for my taste, but it wasn't at all.

I do agree that all the people around her being so understanding and helpful were a bit too good to be true, and personally I thought the ending was a bit disappointing (knocked off half a star for that).

But I came to love Eleanor and I was rooting for her all the way.

message 16: by Isabelle (new)

Isabelle (iamaya) | 88 comments I imagine you mean the revelation about her mother. I would say that I saw it coming because there were some hints and by the middle of the book it seemed obvious to me. For example, as Eleonor is having more social interaction with her new friends, the figure of the mother starts disappearing and reappears only when Eleonor gets really unwell.

message 17: by Laurie (new)

Laurie I was surprised by the ending with Mummy as well. I had begun to be suspicious about where she was and how Eleanor could avoid talking to her during therapy when she always talked to Mummy otherwise, but I still did not see the surprise coming.

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