Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?
When I first saw this book's cover, read its blurb and thought about the strange name in the title, I felt immediately curious and compelled to read it. Even though it's a debut novel, something told me that this would be a great book.
As the title implies, this book's story revolves around a woman who's as unique as her surname - Eleanor Oliphant. She's almost thirty and works as a finance clerk. It's immediately clear that Eleanor is some kind of pariah, a social outcast. Living in social housing, her only companion is Polly, her beloved houseplant! At work she stays by herself and her colleagues do not talk to her. They gossip about her and her appearance behind her back and they all regard her as a freak. But Eleanor feels completely fine!
"The things I've seen cannot be unseen. The things I've done cannot be undone."
As the book progresses, we learn more about Eleanor and why she looks like (and behaves like) a total weirdo. We know that as a child Eleanor has survived some horrific tragedy that has left her scarred both physically and emotionally. But what had happened? And why is her 'Mummy' in jail? Why is Eleanor still so intimidated by her mum?
One day, following an accident, a guy working in the same company becomes friendly with her. He's kind and understanding, but Eleanor feels he's just invading her space, getting on her nerves. She doesn't even like him one bit. Eleanor has learned not to rely on or trust anyone. But thanks to this guy, she begins to slowly do 'normal' things that 'normal' persons do. She starts meeting new people and taking more care of herself. But what happens when Eleanor is suddenly struck by a major setback? Can she ever get back on the right track to become a 'normal' woman?
I compared Eleanor to a delicate statue that has been glued back together after having been shattered into a thousand pieces. The statue, looks a bit odd, but is quite firm now. However all the cracks are still there, waiting for just that little pressure that's enough to send all the pieces apart fragmenting the statue once again in an instant. My heart went out to Eleanor, I felt so sorry for her. She's strange, eccentric, yes, but I couldn't help loving her. At times she made me laugh out loud, at others I felt my heart breaking for her. I really wanted her to be happy, to feel safe. It's evident that she has suffered enormously in her life, having been handed from one foster family to another, having no one close to her. She's a shell of a person, lonely, with no one to love or at least understand her. But is it true what she says? Is she really fine? Or is it just her way of mentally coping with her situation? Will she ever be free of the invisible chains that have kept her captive since the days of her tragic childhood?
The author's writing is beautiful and flawless and she does a great job in bringing to life in vivid colour such great, unique and complicated characters as Eleanor and Raymond. Even though she's full of strange quirks, I found myself drawn to Eleanor. She fascinated me and I ended up thinking about her and her story, when I wasn't actually reading the book, wondering what would happen next.
This is a thought-provoking, funny, sad book that has loneliness, childhood traumas and tragedy at its centre. I really enjoyed it and I highly recommend it.
With huge thanks to HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction for approving my request to read and review this book through Netgalley.