There was a lot written about this book. And books that cause so much reaction always make me both curious and apprehensive. On one hand, we all want to be in the know, and if everyone says it’s so good there may be some truth in there. On the other, I am a bit of a snob, with little faith in the taste of the masses.
In the end, curiosity mixed with Amazon Warehouse deal prevailed and I bought it. But then apprehension raised its head, so the book spent good six months on the shelf. However, patience is a virtue that books have in abundance, and finally, the time came.
Eleanor Oliphant, if you haven’t heard about her till now, is almost thirty, works in an office, has no friends and regularly spends her weekends with pizza and two bottles of vodka. She has no complaints about her life. It is logical, organized and she is completely fine.
Until she finds the man of her dreams. This is where normally I’d let a disgusted groan ‘a romance!’. But then having already spent some time with Eleanor and her matter-of-fact was of being I could not believe this would turn into a cloying romance, so I persisted.
Eleanor starts methodically preparing herself for meeting her true love. At the same time, her computer at work starts acting up and she meets Raymond, the IT guy. One day after work together they help an older man who fell unconscious at the traffic lights. And somehow without making a conscious choice in the matter Eleanor’s social circle slowly comes into existence.
She still tries to maintain her routine and on Wednesdays speaks to Mummy, who for some mysterious reason is in an institution. Let’s just say that Mummy is not nice and quite far from supportive.
Eleanor does not much care about her appearance, firmly believing the only thing people will notice about her are the burn scars on one of her cheeks. She also doesn’t hold the fellow humans in too high regard. When we apply her razor-sharp logic to humankind and the world it really is hard to argue.
Slowly we find out more about Eleanor’s past, but we also see her changing. Always driven by logic and hard facts, keeping feelings at bay, suddenly Eleanor starts letting them in. But when the dam is down it happens at risk of becoming fragile, swept away, and hurt.
Eleanor tries to answer the question that many people are asking: is it better to be alone and safe from hurt, or is it better to take the risk because emotional high and closeness outweigh the possible hurt? Can we live in isolation? Are we complete on our own? And I don’t mean here in romantic terms, but purely in having or not having a social circle, with Eleanor we’re back to basics.
This is the second time where it all could go pear-shaped and turn into a weepy pseud-psychological babble. And again it is Eleanor that saves the book. Rarely have I met so robustly developed character’s voice. You want to keep reading for her, to spend more time with her, and her assumed eccentricity (which she sees as completely normal, it is you who is being eccentric).
I liked this book a lot because of Eleanor. It made me laugh, got me sad at times, but never fell in the touchy-feely trap. A true achievement, especially given the subject matter and the fact it is a debut. A very accomplished one at that.
Some quotes from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine