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 ever weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled existence. Except, sometimes, everything…
This book has been talked about so much over the past year that I had to read it. Suffering from anxiety and depression has crippled my life for the past few years, so I approached it with more than a little trepidation. Sometimes it’s hard to read about things that are so close it home, yet the world is changing and mental illness isn’t seen quite as such a bugbear among the world today, except maybe in the workplace.
I tried to avoid all the spoilers before starting, never good to go into a book when you know what’s about to happen, so I’ll try not to give too much away in this review, yet somethings are bound to be revealed, so you have been warned. For those who haven’t read this book you can stop here and skip to the last paragraph.
So what exactly is this book all about? Well it tells the day to day life of Eleanor Oliphant through her own words. She’s nearly thirty and lives a life rich in routine. It deals with her life in often microscopic detail, and shows how she views the world though her eyes and mind. The OCD, as we find out, is pretty severe. Gradually through the pages we learn what has made Eleanor the person she is currently. We find the triggers and actions and then begin to fully understand this extraordinary woman.
The main character at times is hard to read. I found myself laughing at some of her ways, then instantly regretting every thing I’d done. It’s painful at times and then soars to such a height that I’m crying with joy every little step she takes. Raymond, an IT geek, who works at the same place as Eleanor has to take a lot of credit for the progress she makes during the book. He breaks her routine at times, but it’s Sammy who really brings them close. Sammy a pensioner, collapses in the street and the three of them are drawn together by the incident. Through Sammy and Ray, they manage to coax out Eleanor from her life into a new one.
It’s a book that makes you think the way you think situations. I saw traces of myself in the character and it wasn’t pleasant to say the least. Yet there was hope in the book. With help from a friend they can help you find and re imagine your life. I found myself taking breaks from the book to analyse my own life. We all need a Sammy event or a friend like Raymond to survive in this world. The final pages make up for the misery of the middle. There’s a lot left open but I hope that doesn’t mean a sequel. I like the idea that we can speculate about Raymond and Eleanor’s future.
Thank you Gail Honeyman for writing such a eye opening and soul searching book.