Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is Gail Honeyman’s debut novel and won the COSTA First Novel Award in 2007. Reese Witherspoon has bought the film rights for this book and it has also been a No.1 Sunday Times Bestseller. Despite all this, I would say, Eleanor Oliphant is just about fine.
Eleanor lives in Scotland, in a community flat, works as an accountant in a design company, drinks two bottles of vodka every weekend, hasn’t taken a single day of leave from work in nine years, speaks to her mother on Wednesdays and has a dreary sense of fashion (or the complete lack thereof). She obviously is a social recluse and pines for company. Eleanor all so deeply reminiscent of the typical troubled character, made ever so famous by Bridget Jones. But unlike Ms Jones, Eleanor Oliphant fails to leave an endearing mark on your psyche.
Eleanor Oliphant is not without the sense of witticism either. There are situations and conversations that will make you smile, at times even laugh. For instance the time when Eleanor chooses to dress up to impress her ‘rockstar’ prince charming and is seen asking for Bobbi at the Bobbi Brown store. Her self evaluation of her made-up self wasn’t totally unworthy of the laughs either.
She passed me a hand mirror. I didn’t really recognize myself. The scar was barely noticeable, and my eyes were heavily rimmed and ringed with charcoal, reminding me of a programme I’d watched recently about lemurs. My lips were painted the color of Earl Haig poppies.
“Well” she said,”what do you think?”
“I look like a small Madagascan primate, or perhaps a North American raccoon,” I said. “Its charming”.
And then there are those times, when you almost feel sorry for the 30 year old, Jane Austen reading accountant. While having a cringe-worthy life in itself is crappy enough, being called a ‘waste of human tissue’ by your own mother does set your grief apart the rest. There however, is no point in the narration, where you can actually really feel the characters or see them just as if they are in front of you. And that for me is what takes away a few brownie points from this Sunday Times Bestseller.
The book doesn’t qualify as a bad read though. It is a steady non-pretentious book, justifying your time over a couple of weekends. The language is conversational and easy. The characters though quite stereotypical in themselves are likable none the less. There are no twists in the tale (well almost), the characters are as predictable as any could be. Reading this book is like sitting on a beach on a summer afternoon and watching the waves thrashing the shore. There is a definite rhythm to it, like a monotone, but not something that you want to break. In all fairness, Eleanor Oliphant whilst not completely fine, is fine enough for that one time read.
Categories: book review