Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

Pretty popular book - it won a Costa Debut Novel award and I've seen stacks of it at bookshops.

Eleanor, who narrates the book unreliably, has had something pretty bad happen in her past, and lives a solitary life, with little social interaction beyond the office where she works. She comes across as a bit Asperger's, and so, like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the reader picks up information about what's happening and why people behave in certain ways, where Eleanor herself appears not to.

I was quite underwhelmed by the book, especially when comparing it to The Curious Incident.. - there wasn't anything very new here and the way things turned out was fairly predictable (for the reader, if not for Eleanor herself).

In one chapter, she goes to have a bikini wax, because she thinks it'll help when she begins a relationship. When she's there, she's asked what kind she wants - French, Brazilian or Hollywood. She doesn't understand what she's being asked, and chooses Hollywood and when it's finished is outraged to find that she's completely waxed/bald.

A couple of chapters later, she's telling someone he shouldn't smoke, and says that she considered taking up smoking, but researched all the effects and decided against. Says something like "before I do something, I am scrupulous about understanding what the choice means". This reminded me of The Humans, where the narrator's character traits changed to suit the requirements of the plot at the time. And overall it felt like the way Eleanor did things, and the writing style, changed to suit the plot:

For most of the book there's a story of Eleanor's quest for love, and her growing relationship with Raymond. Then towards the end she has some sort of breakdown and goes into therapy, at which point the feel of the book changes so that the Raymond story sort of fizzles out, and instead there's more about therapy and confronting memories etc. - this felt more like the author had got fed up with the Raymond stuff than a deliberate design, and made things feel a bit half-finished (not in a good way).


Completed : 03-Jan-2019 (audiobook)

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