Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (2017) by Gail Honeyman

Since its release last year, Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine has been a fixture on bestseller lists and was even a Reece Witherspoon Book Club selection (June 2017).

The novel’s titular character is a thirty-year-old woman who works in the accounting department of a Glasgow graphic design firm. Eleanor lives a solitary life, eschewing social interaction; wearing unfashionable, utilitarian clothes; and blotting out her weekends and memories one mug-full of vodka at a time. Her only tenuous connection to the world outside of herself is a crush she develops on a local musician . . . who she stalks on social media.

After a chance encounter with a coworker and an elderly man in distress, Eleanor’s cloistered life opens up. She begins to form tenuous friendships and, with the help of patient sales assistants, make better sartorial choices. As she begins to build a wider social circle, Eleanor must come to terms with the traumas past and present that have shaped her life.

Ultimately, the book is about the importance of compassion, forgiveness, and the redemptive qualities of human connection. While Eleanor is not always a likable character, she possesses a stilted charm that makes the reader root for her, even in her most despicable of moments.

On the whole, I enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant and, at first, gave the book four stars on GoodReads. Upon reflection, however, I dropped my rating to three. Where the book stumbled is in its conclusion, which felt hamfisted and needlessly protracted. The book is about fifty pages too long and its “twist” ending didn’t feel consistent with the development of Eleanor’s character. Had this manuscript landed on the desk of a more dogged editor (with a fist-full of red pens), it would have been a more cohesive, satisfying read.

Despite its flaws, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is an engaging read tailor-made for book clubs and more substantive evening reading.

TLD Rating: *** / *****

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