Eleanor Oliphant is perfectly fine is a love story. Not the sexed-up romantic kind of love story, though there is a faint whiff of romance towards the end, it is a love story of a distinct kind.
It is the tale of a 30-year-old single woman, with a horrendous past, who learns to love herself and also let the world love her back. A story told in Eleanor’s voice – laced with wry unconscious humour. While reading the book, I often cackled aloud, sometimes even chiding myself for laughing at such a sombre story. But that’s the allure of this novel.
Eleanor is an “office worker” in a graphic design company where she crunches numbers in the back room. She landed the job straight after graduation; after she politely asked her boyfriend to leave her house and he violently broke her bones and smashed her face. The good side. Not the side with scars running across her cheek from hairline to chin.
An orphan, Eleanor has no friends or relatives. Her best friend is a potted plant – the only thing that came out alive from the past, apart from Eleanor herself. The only person Eleanor can call her own is her vicious and manipulative “mummy” who according to Eleanor is in prison in a place unknown to her. Though she knows her “mummy is bad” she cannot do without her once-a-week-fifteen-minute-phone-in with “mummy”.
Socially inept, Eleanor’s life revolves around rote. She is a creature of habit, right down to drinking Glen’s Vodka during weekends and making the same pasta and sauce every day for dinner. But she is (or at least she believes that she is) happy living alone. She isn’t sad or needy or wanting. That is until she sees a musician and feels that “he is the one for her”. While she plots and plans a meeting (and even a marriage in the near future) with the musician, Raymond the IT operator in her office walks into her life in the most mundane manner. An unnecessary and unpleasant intrution in the beginning, but later turns out to be the much needed collision which would jettison Eleanor into uncharted territory of self discovery.
It is a tender tale about loneliness. It is a humorous tale about the calamities of loneliness. It is also a poignant tale of hope. With the most unforeseen twist-in-the-tale at the end.
It is a well-crafted debut novel with no lag in the telling. Author Gail Honeyman’s charming turn of phrases makes even vomit sound elegant. “Whatever Raymond was eating smelled disgusting, like gently reheated vomit.”
Eleanor Oliphant is perfectly fine makes you gag, chuckle and applaud all at the same time.
Eleanor Oliphant is perfectly fine
Author: Gail Honeyman
Published by Harper Collins
Rs: 304 (on Amazon)A Sunny Square's Stories