Home > 2010, 21st Century, British Literature, Honeyman Gail, Novel, Sugar without cellulite > Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (2017) French title: Eleanor Oliphant va très bien. Translated by Aline Azoulay-Pacvoň

With June starts my 20 Books of Summer challenge and what do I do? Read a book that is not on the list. Oh well, Cathy said we could switch some books.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman came in my Kube box for June. It sounded like an easy read and what I needed when I collapse on the couch after a challenging day at work. It fit the easy bill, no worries about that. For the rest… See by yourself.

Eleanor Oliphant is a young woman who lives in self isolation and like a robot. Go to work from Monday to Friday, have a weekly chat with mother, spend the weekend alone, drink some vodka, read books, do housework, rinse, repeat. She’s an introvert, avoids contact with people and doesn’t interact with her colleagues. When she does, she tends to speak her mind and disregard social conventions.

Two things happen at the same time and derail her life from her routine.

She wins concert tickets in a raffle in the office and asks her colleague Billy to go with her. They go and she develops an instant crush on Johnny Lomond, the lead singer of the local band who was playing that night. Eleanor is now convinced he’s her HEA and that she needs to metamorphose into a “normal” woman to be ready when he’ll notice her and obviously fall for her.

Then her computer breaks down and Raymond, the new IT guy in the office, comes to fix it. That day, she stumbles upon Raymond after work, they are walking together on the street when an old man collapses on the pavement. They rescue him and this leads them into a tentative friendship.

Eleanor is weighed down by a personal tragedy that is slowly unveiled as the story progresses. She’s opening up to life and other people, driven by her crush and pushed by Raymond who tricks her into attending social events.

I guess it’s supposed to be a feel-good novel about how much we need other people in our lives, how loneliness is not a life sentence if we make efforts and how we bloom under other humans’ love and friendship. You know, a book full of pearls of wisdom.

Actually, I thought it was a whole necklace of pearls of clichés.

The characters’ jobs cliché: Socially inapt Eleanor is an accountant and awkward Raymond is IT support staff. As a CFO, in the name of the different teams of accountants I managed along the years, I resent the stupid cliché of the mousy female accountant who loves numbers more than people because they are safe. And not all IT people are nerds who spend time at their mom’s and dress poorly.

The socially inapt character. Eleanor aims to be like Grace in Addition by Toni Jordan or like Don Tillman in The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion She doesn’t know how to behave in pubs, at concerts, at weddings… She has no filter… Her colleagues think she’s weird…

The terrible secret. Eleanor has survived a personal drama that shaped up her whole life. She’s a survivor and built her coping mechanisms. Now is time to stop coping, go to the shrink and start living.

The lives-under-a-rock cliché. Eleanor lives in downtown Glasgow, goes to work every day in public transports, shops at Tesco and reads a newspaper daily. And yet she sounds like she’s been dropped from the planet Mars. She’s clueless about almost everything. How is that possible? We are surrounded by information, even when you don’t care about something, you know about it if it’s popular enough. Think of football. You can’t help knowing the names of players or of the national team coach.

The makeover cliché. To conquer her rock singer, Eleanor reads women magazines, goes to the hairdresser and has her long hair cut, gets her nails done and goes to the beautician for a waxing.

The you-don’t-see-what-under-you-nose cliché. Actually, Eleanor’s colleagues really like her, Raymond wants to be more than a friend and she’s more loveable than she thinks.

You get the drift.

I finished it because I was tired, it didn’t require a lot of brain power and it was pleasant enough. I understand why readers find it uplifting but I thought it was clichéed and implausible. Usually, I’m rather an easy audience for light romance books once in a while. But they need better characterization and style than that.

For positive reviews, read Kim’s here and Claire’s here.

  1. June 12, 2021 at 9:29 am

    You have just confirmed I was right in choosing not to read this book. ‘Feel good’ books need to be much cleverer than that to captivate me…😫


    • June 12, 2021 at 9:45 am

      It’s like the Potato Society one…

      Liked by 1 person

      • June 12, 2021 at 10:46 am

        Oh no! Please don’t compare it with that terrible Potato 🥔 Society book


      • June 12, 2021 at 5:42 pm

        Another one that I ignored…


  2. June 12, 2021 at 10:05 am

    I was never going to read this book, but I *loved* this review!


  3. June 12, 2021 at 10:45 am

    Lol. This review made me laugh! Yes, the novel is full of cliches and stereotypes but I enjoyed it. I think it was the black comedy that appealed, even though I felt slightly mean laughing at Eleanor because I think she was on the spectrum somewhere. Sometimes you need to read a book purely for entertainment value rather than literary merit. I could never exist on a reading diet comprised of only literary fiction, I like to read crime, the occasional best seller, psychological thrillers etc. just to mix things up a bit. Secretly, I must confess, that this one stole my heart a little because it name checks a magazine I once worked on and I’ve never laughed so much in ages seeing that reference in a novel, especially as it’s mentioned with abject horror! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 12, 2021 at 10:36 pm

      I’m glad you found it amusing, I was hoping for that kind of reaction. 🙂

      I love reading books purely for entertainment. I liked Toni Jordan’s books, for example and I like easy crime fiction for the same reason. Usually, I’m a reader who enjoys indulging in these books. This one rubbed me the wrong way.

      Eleanor was too out-of-touch with everything.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. June 12, 2021 at 5:17 pm

    I’m going to have to query your statement about knowing names of football players or of the national team coach! Other than that, I’m completely fine (I think). Enjoyed your review, especially your pearl string of clichés.


    • June 12, 2021 at 10:38 pm

      You listen to the radio and you can’t help catching accidental knowledge about football. Or rugby.


  5. June 12, 2021 at 8:58 pm

    Like Lisa, this was not a book I would pick up but i did enjoy you validating my choice and giving the reasons I would hate it!


  6. buriedinprint
    June 13, 2021 at 12:08 am

    Haha I think it’s so funny that, for your first pick, you’re going off into wild territory for some random read (and, as it turns out, for no good reason LOL).

    I know that many people have loved this book; I did pick it up on the paperback shelves at the library once and read a few pages but decided I just wasn’t in the right mood to appreciate the humour (and, maybe I will never be in that right mood…quite possibly!).

    En français, je lis un correspondance entre deux écrivains québécois, François Lévesque et Virginia Pesamapeo Bordeleau. It’s a very skinny book, which is a good thing, because my French is grade-school level…but I’m always trying to break through to adult reading options. Heheh


    • June 13, 2021 at 7:01 am

      I’ve got this Kube subscription where I get a book per month and I decided to read this one right away because it sounded easy. To be honest, I read it at night after long work days, it was easy and didn’t take any reading time from the other books on my list. I would have been too tired to read them anyway.

      I was weary of the book when I got it because it’s hit or miss with this type of books. I saw that Claire and Kim had rated it 4 stars and thought it’d be ok.

      I’ve never heard of these two writers from Québec. If you want to try French adult fiction, I’d recommend Incidences by Philippe Djian. It’s rather short and he writes very well, with easy vocabulary and short sentences.


      • buriedinprint
        June 21, 2021 at 4:32 pm

        I suspect that Québécois writers are harder to find there to begin with, let alone small-press indigenous writers. I did ok with it-barely 100 pages and, because letters, informal, with specialized vocabulary about writing (familiar territory). But I love the idea of the writer you suggested; I didn’t recognize his name but there are many books by him in the library system here, including Incidences, both in English and French (so I can read in parallel–my favourite thing, to capture all the nouns that I don’t guess very well RDM). I’ll definitely give him a try: thank you very much!


        • June 25, 2021 at 9:30 pm

          I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts about Philippe Djian.

          I don’t know if you’ve read Bonheur d’occasion by Gabrielle Roy but I think it’s the best book from Québec that I’ve read. (And Tremblay too)


  7. June 13, 2021 at 12:24 am

    This is one of those books that I started but could not finish. Glad I’m not as weird as I thought I was. 🙂


    • June 13, 2021 at 7:02 am

      I think I only finished it because it was easy to read and I was too tired to read anything else anyway.


  8. June 13, 2021 at 1:20 am

    Glad I’m not the only one, my first two challenge books were not on my list either, but I had better luck with them than you did! I did start this book at one point, maybe the audio version(?), but it didn’t hold my attention.


    • June 13, 2021 at 7:04 am

      Two peas in a pod with the 20 Books list, eh? 🙂

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t like this book.


  9. June 13, 2021 at 8:45 am

    A necklace of pearls of cliches. Love it! Though these easy reading romances generally are formulaic. I’m a bit tired these days of the on the spectrum cliche in particular.


    • June 13, 2021 at 9:51 am

      They are formulaic, I expected it but it’s not easy to succeed in writing these novels too. There’s a thin line between a good and bad light book and this line is easy to cross. I too am a bit tire of the on the spectrum cliché.


  10. June 13, 2021 at 5:53 pm

    I gave away my copy a few months ago having sampled a few pages and deciding it just wasn’t for me.
    The only part of your review I’d have to disagree with is your comment that even without trying, we all know the names of footballers and the team manager. Not me! I have an inbuilt filter that blocks all that info …


    • June 13, 2021 at 10:26 pm

      I’m definitely not the only one to struggle with this book.

      You’re better than me at blocking football information. I remember things in spite of me…


  11. June 13, 2021 at 9:32 pm

    I found this book pretty distasteful – I’m autistic and Eleanor is definitely written as autistic (even though Honeyman has said in interviews that she isn’t supposed to be, “just weird”), and the idea of a book wanting us to laugh at someone for not fitting in, especially after the tragedy-on-tragedy past that the author gives Eleanor, just doesn’t sit right with me at all! And yes, even if that hadn’t been an issue, the characterisation was just not good enough as it was.


    • June 13, 2021 at 10:37 pm

      I also thought that Eleanor was written as an autistic character. I guess she’s supposed to be funny with all her mishaps but in the end, it’s just painful, isn’t it?

      I think that the simplistic message the author tried to convey is that we need other people to be happy. Way to state the obvious. I found the whole story quite unrealistic.


  12. June 16, 2021 at 1:48 am

    I thought the book was just okay but a lot of my friends enjoyed it a lot. I did finish it but it’s not something I’d ever read again. I assumed Eleanor was on the spectrum but I just read in a comment on this thread that the author said she is not supposed to be. Strange!


    • June 19, 2021 at 6:37 am

      I can see why other readers enjoyed it but it didn’t work for me. Eleanor seems to be on the spectrum, yes. I guess it’s easier to say she’s not to avoid all scrutiny about medical accuracy in her characterization.


  13. July 26, 2021 at 9:39 am

    Sounds as if it’s made for Hollywood! I’ve been hearing about this one everywhere, so thanks for the warning.


    • July 27, 2021 at 7:38 am

      I don’t think this one is for you but you’d probably like Monsieur Proust by Anka Mulhstein.

      Liked by 1 person

      • July 27, 2021 at 2:25 pm

        Ah, thanks! I was getting worried – it’s unusual for me to leave your site without an extra book on my TBR list! Order is restored 😉


  1. September 4, 2021 at 9:55 am

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