A review of “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman

In my experience, if one genuinely enquires, very few people are “completely fine” – and Eleanor Oliphant, a finance clerk in Glasgow, is far from this state of bliss. Indeed she is a deeply troubled woman of 30, although only gradually do we discover exactly why in this accomplished first novel by Honeyman.

The story is told by Eleanor herself in very literate terms (she has a degree in classics) which by turns are amusing and moving. This is a woman of very limited social experience and inter-personal skills who is trying to lead a self-contained life that ultimately is a profoundly lonely one.

At the beginning of her tale, she declares: “I’m Eleanor Oliphant. I don’t need anyone else – there’s no big hole in my life, no missing part of my own particular puzzle. I am a self-contained entity.”

But later she admits: “These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate.”


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