Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine is a rare find. Published in 2017, it’s the debut novel from Scottish author, Gail Honeyman and it earned her the Costa First Novel award.
I’m telling you, this is a writer to watch. If Eleanor Oliphant has not already been optioned for film, it will be soon.
When you read this book, you might initially wonder what I see in it. At first blush, Eleanor doesn’t seem to be a very compelling character—but believe it or not, that’s part of Honeyman’s genius. It sounds like a weird thing to say about a book I’m recommending. Yes, Eleanor is easy to ignore and yes, it will take you a couple of chapters to get into her story.
But it’s worth it.
Conventional writing wisdom says that authors need to start their books with a bang; hook the reader from the first sentence and get her to empathize with the character as soon as possible. If that’s the case, why do I think that creating a bland, easy-to-overlook character is such a brave and innovative choice by Honeyman? Because it gives us a chance to see Eleanor as her peers see her.
Eleanor sneaks up on you. Her story draws you in bit by bit and before you know it you won’t be able to put the book down. She’s a young woman who is heartbreakingly lonely and traumatized, yet who has an innocent and frank view of the world not unlike Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory. There are times I laughed out loud and times I wished I could reach into the pages and give Eleanor a hug.
Eleanor Oliphant is anything but fine but maybe, just maybe, she will be.
Available in print, digital and audio versions. Visit your local library or click here to buy the ebook. If your library doesn’t carry this book, ask them to order it.
The audiobook is narrated by actor Cathleen McCarron for which she won the 2018 Audie Award.
Eleanor Oliphant has a unique speech pattern and when the book is made into a film, everyone will be talking like her. Until that happens, you might want to give the audiobook a try. It’s absolutely incredible.