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MisterHobgoblin

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

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Eleanor Oliphant is 30 years old, lives in Glasgow, works on accounts at a graphic designer, wears the same practical clothes every day, eats the same food and spends her weekend drinking vodka and doing the crosswords. Eleanor has no friends and no social life – beyond her weekly conversation with her mother. It’s existing, but it’s not really living. 

Initially it has a feel of The Rosie Project. Comedy drawn from the lack of social awareness of someone with an undiagnosed psychological disorder somewhere close to Asperger’s Syndrome. But it soon becomes clear that Eleanor’s problems are borne of childhood trauma rather than underdeveloped emotional awareness. Whilst Eleanor is gauche, she is not completely socially stunted; she has self-awareness and the capacity to learn. And learn she does. This is essentially a Bildungsroman – a coming of age story – but with an abnormally late developer. There is genuine comedy gold in the process – particularly as Eleanor finds reasons to alter her image. 

At times, in honesty, Eleanor’s apparent ignorance of modern culture and appliances stretches credulity, but it is easy to go along with the conceit for the sake of the humour. Yet at its heart, there are real people like Eleanor. Even in Glasgow, a city with a rough and ready reputation, there are a few delicate flowers who wince at the sound of swearing, who maintain prim and proper manners to the point of prissiness, and profess never to have stepped into a pub. There are people in every city whose lives fall into lonely ruts as a way of avoiding difficult decisions and facing up to the need for personal development. 

As the novel unfolds, more detail of Eleanor’s past emerges at the same time as she takes more responsibility for facing up to – and improving – her situation. The reader becomes increasingly sympathetic towards her and wills her to beat her demons. 

This is not a novel that relies on tricks and although there is a twist at the end, it doesn’t define the novel. What really makes the story special is the narrative voice. Eleanor is defiant even at her most desperate. She does not look to others to solve her problems and doesn’t even really want to admit to having problems. Many people are in a worse situation than her, she reasons. Even as she does emerge from her isolation, it is not to address a particular problem; rather it is a strategy to achieve a particular goal. She can be self-depricating, but never whiney. 

Eleanor Oliphant is a really fantastic book that affirms all that is good about modern Scottish society; it is an optimistic book that will stay with me.

 

*****

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My kind of book too, and the first that has piqued my interest for some time.

Sadly not due out in pb until next year, so I will have to wait.  German French & Dutch translations out later this year apparently. in various formats.

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Ah well, the Kindle price is not that bad. Plus - Amazon has the hardback on offer at ten pounds - and there was a time when ten pounds was what you'd pay for the paperback. Book prices have come down so much over the past 20 or more years. 

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3 hours ago, megustaleer said:

Don't have a Kindle, and I find hardbacks too heavy and bulky these days.

I'll wait, and try not to forget about it in the meantime.

 

It's a personal choice. But if you have a smart phone, you can get a Kindle app and read on that. It was a revelation when I first discovered it. I was with Calliope in Kyoto and we had an hour to pass before we could reasonably look for an evening meal. As we sat on a wall, I said what a pity it was that I had left my Kindle in the hotel. Calliope told me I could get the Kindle app, and since there was free wi-fi everywhere I downloaded it on the spot, uploaded my book and picked up exactly where I had left off. Now I read heaps on my phone - even lighter than a Kindle or a paperback. 

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32 minutes ago, MisterHobgoblin said:

 

if you have a smart phone, you can get a Kindle app and read on that. 

Nope, haven't got one of those either. Can't cope with today's technology :dunce:

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I just finished this book and liked it very much.  It's very funny in places, but has some very touching and powerful parts as well.  Thanks for reviewing it Mr. HG.  I doubt I would ever have known about it if it weren't for your review.

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I've seen this about and some good reviews but your review MrHG has persuaded me to stick it on the Amazon Wishlist. And I can testify to there being the odd delicate flower in Glasgow!

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(Thanks to luna for directing me to the existing thread.)

This won the Costa Book Award in 2017 and has sold in hardback for ages before being released in paperback, which I was unusual. It has had good word of mouth and I'm surprised no-one has reviewed it on BGO before now.

 

The eponymous Eleanor lives alone and lives a life of solitary routine, by choice. It soon becomes clear that she is protecting herself from hurt following a trauma in childhood which is only gradually revealed. Over the course of the novel, she meets with various challenges to the reality she has constructed for herself. 

 

It kept me turning the pages, wanting to know her background and her fate. I liked many things about her character, and, unlike many debut novels, I thought this got better as it went on. There was one chapter near the end which I thought was particular harrowing and moving. The story was also quite brutal and unsentimental, when it could have been mawkish.

 

I had one problem, which was, given Eleanor's background, I just didn't buy the particular nature of her strangeness. She had that literal and naive way of looking at the world which is typical of Asperger's Syndrome, but was suggested to have come from her childhood trauma. I just didn't buy that someone would be so naive about the ways of the world at her age. But I did like its humour and quirkiness, and it was original in many ways.

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I enjoyed this book very much, everyday was looking forward to reading it. Agree with the criticisms by Mr HG and MInx and with the similarities with the Rosie Project, hoping the sequel (?) isn't as bad.

Apparently Reese Witherspoon has bought the film rights, so expect an Hollywood version soon.  

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I really enjoyed this and became more and more wrapped up in Eleanor as the book went on. My only slight quiibble is that sometimes I thought the author was tryng too hard to be amusing and it jerked you out of the flow of the story, but it ws a great read.

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This is the first book for I don't know how long that has me picking it up at every available opportunity. Enjoyed the "Good Days" section enormously - now just starting on the "Bad Days".

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