With thanks to Audible books for my free credit …
Gail Honeyman seems to have written the realistic journal of a 30something single woman who has had various life trauma, getting through a regular life. Beset by a lack of desire for conformity, Eleanor finds the exhibition of social norms something to be gained from human camouflage. So she begins by researching how to camouflage herself in beauty and celebrity magazines.
The thoughts and movements of Eleanor are painful. She has lived her life through the care system, the daughter of a woman dubbed notoriously as the “face of evil”. She never has visitors other than the social worker and the person who reads the utility meter. Eleanor likes it that way. She’d experienced fantastical stories from her mentally ill mummy, who had home schooled her thereby filling her bubble with things not usual to the general public.
Loneliness is an invisible disease and changes your behaviour in too many ways. But what is normal? Eleanor notices too much. This is because she is fascinated by human behaviour – something she just isn’t familiar with, having attempted to live her life removed from the real thing. She is experiencing life too intensely, filling it with too much information, too much alcohol and too many daydreams about THE ONE, the One who would satisfy “mummy’s requirements” and make mummy adore her and get her mummy’s approval … finally.
So when Eleanor meets Raymond and together they save Sammy, things change for Eleanor, not least, at first, her carefully constructed routine.
There are funny observations of course: Things and ‘words of wisdom’ that mummy told her, new technology, pizza deliveries, who to sit next to on the bus. But overall this is overwhelmingly sad. Cathleen McCarron does an excellent job of this literary fiction and listening to this book certainly gave Eleanor a voice. This made it seem so much more real to me.
Of course it’s not just sad. It’s an illuminating tale of hidden horrors and ultimately uplifting. When we reach the point where Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine, we have walked with her on her journey from being numb to feeling loved, with all its harrowing and tender moments in between.
This is a 5* read, and one that will stay with you for quite some time. I look forward to more by Gail Honeyman.
Published in hardcover in May 2017 by Harper Collins.
Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live
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 every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?