Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman | Book Review

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”

“Time only blunts the pain of loss. It doesn’t erase it.”

“I took one of my hands in the other, tried to imagine what it would feel like if it was another person’s hand holding mine.”

– Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine constitutes a meditation about isolation and loneliness among young people in the modern world. Gail Honeyman said somewhere that what inspired her to write this book was reading an article about the experience of one young woman who said that she did not speak to anyone from the time she left work on Friday evening until she was back at work on Monday morning.

For me, the story of Eleanor is very realistic especially after living and working in London for so long. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine portrays a life of a young woman working in Glasgow ; and, it is rather a grim portrayal of the mundanity of everyday life.

This book will resonate with anyone who has experienced loneliness or feeling of being isolated or abandoned in their lives, while loneliness does not necessarily mean something negative. This is also a story about people who are introverts and treat them as ‘equal’ to the socially accepted extroverts in the Western world. What’s important to remember is that this is a piece of fiction and not a reportage or documentary, so there is some literary creative freedom implemented within the story of Eleanor.

“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 into visiting a similar horror upon them.”

This is one of these books where the hero / heroine is an ‘ordinary’ person trying to make the ends meet while dealing with some internal struggles caused by their earlier life experiences. In my view, this is also one of the best portrayals of professional life of an ‘ordinary’ person and of social interactions between people in their workplace. Eleanor holds a type of job that many people in the UK do, and her interactions with others might resemble many interactions one can witness in everyday life.

Personally, I very much love the world of Eleanor created by Gail Honeyman and I believe that there are many ‘Eleanors’ living among us.

This book is a soul-soothing gift from its author which can contribute to some normalisation of loneliness, aloneness and being an introvert as a way of life. One has to remember that often we can live with others, be surrounded by many people, but still feel lonely and isolated.

“Sometimes you simply needed someone kind to sit with you while you dealt with things.”

 “(…) I could see no point in being anything other than truthful with the world. I had, literally, nothing left to lose. But, by careful observation from the sidelines, I’d worked out that social success is often built on pretending just a little. Popular people sometimes have to laugh at things they don’t find very funny, or do things they don’t particularly want to, with people whose company they don’t particularly enjoy. Not me. I had decided, years ago, that if the choice was between that or flying solo, then I’d fly solo. “

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