I loved this book. Far more than I had expected to if I’m honest, even though I had heard so many great things about it. It had just never seemed like something that I would enjoy reading, but when I saw it in the library, I thought I would give this highly-praised book a try.
It focuses on Eleanor, a social misfit who works as a finance clerk for a graphic design company, and has done for almost a decade. She lives a solitary lifestyle, following her own set routines weekly, including consuming 2 bottles of vodka over each weekend. Her troubled past has led to her experiencing intense social awkwardness, but Eleanor refuses to consider that she has an issue, often blaming things on other people’s “underdeveloped social skills” and stating that she is “completely fine”. Over the course of the story new characters are introduced, each one teaching her to appreciate her values and quirks as well as understand her unresolved fears and push her social boundaries.
Eleanor’s witty and at times dark narration locks you within the firm grasps of her mind, exposing you to all things Oliphant. What comes with that is loneliness and isolation – each weekend spent without speaking to a soul. While many readers, including myself, have anticipated that Eleanor is suffering from other mental health issues aside from her obvious lack of social development and unhealed wounds from her youth, Gail Honeyman, (the author) has denied this. She states that Eleanor is a product of nurture, not nature, and the traumatic events of her childhood are what shaped her. Throughout the book however, even as her horrific childhood is exposed further, Eleanor is never a victim. She is strong and capable of anything she puts her mind to. I find her to be a very motivating character, full of hope and inspiration. She’s charming and just so very much her. I will confess that she is one of my favourite fictional characters of all time.
To begin with, Eleanor did come across as quite unlikable. She is deemed strange and widely disliked by the others around her, due to her peculiar and formulaic behaviour. As a reader as well I didn’t find her a particularly pleasant character to read about. Soon enough though, after seeing her interior thoughts, as well as watching her develop, for me she became a character that warmed my small little bookish heart.
Often she is comically oblivious to the workings of the world, particularly within social situations, and I think the consistent hint of humor adds so much charm to the novel. The interpretations of the book as a whole are very different, with many finding it predominantly funny and others finding it heartbreaking. Different elements of this novel will impact all readers individually, and in my opinion that is a key factor in why it became such a popular book.
With Eleanor’s entrancing voice and a plot that keeps you wondering, this unique book will soon bring you into its tight embrace. I can already tell this will be high in the list of my favourite books of this year, and I can’t recommend it enough. The praise is well-deserved, and if you’re one of the few people who’ve yet to read this book, then go and do it now!
Thank you so much for reading 🙂