Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

A Life Loved Book Club

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Hello and welcome to the second instalment of our book club! I hope you enjoyed the first book, and that Margaret Atwood took you on a journey of distopian discovery with her popular novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.

This month, I’d like to introduce you to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Glaswegian author Gail Honeyman. Honeyman’s novel is somewhat of a phenomenon in the publishing world, as it caused a bidding war for the book’s rights (and the movie since!) despite being a debut novel by a Scottish author. Essentially it’s every writer’s dream, and, as it turns out, also that of a lot of readers.

So we meet Eleanor: She leads a fairly simple life, wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal for every lunch, and buys the same two bottles of booze at the end of every week. In many ways Eleanor is all of us, at certain points in our lives – perfectly content in her daily mediocrity, and eager to uphold the carefully constructed walls she’s built to shield herself from any kind of hurt.

One day, a simple act of kindness tears Eleanor out of her safe space and into the real world. She must learn to navigate this world, and confront the past demons she has avoided all her life.

At the heart of the novel, Eleanor’s character is socially awkward, lonely, and both mentally and physically scarred – badly! She’s a distinctly relatable character, which probably explains the immediate success of the book.

I think none of us readers will have gone through our so far lives without ever experiencing lonelyness or mental pain and exhaustion – mental illness if you will. It’s still somewhat of a social taboo to speak about, but it shouldn’t be.

And I can only speak for myself, but I’ll also venture a guess when I say that most of us will have downed vodka (gin in my case) when confronted with a particularly painful situation. I once spent an afternoon with a small bottle of Bombay Sapphire, having once again been reminded that my first boyfriend had dated me as a sort of ‚social experiment‘. There is a deeply offensive numbness in lying on your bed, only half conscious, with dirty dishes and broken glass from a paradox art project strewn about your University dorm room. Hardly anybody hasn’t been there, yet most of us have eventually found our way back out of the darkness, growing up to become moderately functioning adults. Eleanor, on the other hand, permanently maintained the wall she’d built around herself, until…

Discussion questions

We’d love to see you response to these questions in the comments box below.

  1. How do you think you would have treated Eleanor had she been your work colleague?
  2. How does the novel deal with the idea of grief? Were you able to relate? If so, how?
  3. Why do you think Eleanor is the way she is?
  4. How is loneliness viewed by society? What can we do to get rid of the social stigma associated with lonelyness?
  5. What do you think the future holds for Eleanor?

Happy reading everyone!

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