THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!
THIS IS NOT A DRILL!!
**PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS POST IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED READING ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE!**
Okay, where to begin? Well, first off, I loved the book.
And this was mainly because I loved Eleanor. From I think, the first chapter I was rooting for her. No, it was from the first page I was rooting for her.
That beginning self-deprecating description of herself, ‘when people ask me what I do…’ what a great first line as an introduction to her and all told in her straight to the point voice, without a trace of self-pity. Totally endearing.
I also adored the way she was a little off, and knew she was a little off, as in, not socially acceptable in some shape or form, but just got on with it. The way this was depicted through other peoples reaction to her was delightful and really well done. And when you think about it, the entire book was written from Eleanor’s point of view. We were in her head for the whole book and I wasn’t bored of her once, were you?
It’s quite a hard thing to pull off, writing from first person perspective, letting the drama unfold and only seeing it through one characters eyes, and it was done perfectly. Not once did I wish to pop into another characters head or want to leave Eleanors narration. And this was because of the hooks that were expertly placed throughout the book which kept the pace and tension up.
Eleanor was a riddle from the get go, in the first chapter we learn her routine, that she likes to drink herself into oblivion every weekend, that she talks to ‘mummy’ on Wednesdays without fail and that makes us ask all sorts of questions about her and her life. It made me want to keep turning the pages, to keep reading and find out why. So many ‘whys’ were presented in the opening chapters and kept me turning the pages.
The narrative drive in this was so strong, I felt compelled to read it all. I kind of knew that Eleanor had to transform, that she was going to go from the awkward woman at the start into something else and it was a joy to read. That scene in the hairdressers! I cried at that, I think the line, ‘you’ve made me all shiny’ is one of the best delivered lines ever.
I also loved the blossoming romance with Raymond and loved that it wasn’t straightforward, that Laura was there, confusing everything and mixing it all up. And when he comes in and cleans her bed sheets after she’s hit rock bottom, oh I loved that scene. And his mother! She was brilliant, the description of her house and the meal they had was excellent. I was there with them reading that, I could smell that soup!
So that’s what I loved.
All that was a complete joy to read, but, like all books, there’s a few things that jarred a little. I would’ve really loved a proper, full description of what was so ‘off ‘ about Eleanor. We know that she’s socially awkward and people refer to her as ‘a bit mad,’ but I didn’t understand why. Did I miss something there? Okay, she said a few weird things, but by all accounts she looks normal, her scar wasn’t that bad, and I don’t think she was talking to herself out loud, was she? So why did no one want to sit next to her on the bus near the end? Tell me, what did I miss? I never really got a grip with what was so off putting about her to complete strangers.
I also didn’t completely believe the fact that she fantasizes her phone calls with Mummy every week and that she never, in all the years whilst living alone, looked at what had happened to her as a child. I understand that she had to arrive at this decision herself, to see what had happened to her, but I didn’t quite buy that social services would’ve just left her to it.
I mean, that one visit she has, the social worker talks to her about these phone calls she has with her ‘mummy,’ knowing her mother is dead. Would she just leave it, like she did? Would it be up to her to go to therapy herself? But, y’know, I could forgive all of that, because I loved Eleanor so much. I did feel the pace dropped off a bit on the last quarter, I would’ve prefered a tighter edit in that last section but really, these are nit-picks. It was one of the best books I’ve read in ages.
I’m giving it a nine out of ten, so tell me, what’s your score? Did you enjoy it as much as I did?
And, I’ve installed this thing on here for Facebook comments to try and make the discussion easier. There is a bit underneath for comments for those who aren’t on Facebook, so let me know what works for you.
I’ve had so many direct messages and other comments on other social platforms about this book club, and I’m trying to create a space here where we can all join in together, so if you’ve any ideas on how to make this easier (disqus?) then let me know.