Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Gail Honeyman
Genres: Fiction
Read: Feb. 2018

I think I have a bit of an unpopular opinion on this one. I appreciate what Gail Honeyman did with this book and I actually do think it’s a really good story, but I was just so bored for a lot of this book.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine reminded me in parts of The Rosie Project (but better) and A Man Called Ove (but not quite as good). Eleanor is seemingly fine; she gets up every day and goes to work, she talks to her mum every Wednesday, and every Friday she purchases a bottle of vodka and spends the weekend alone in her flat. She likes routine, she dislikes emotion, and she believes she is completely fine.

Her routine is disrupted when she meets Raymond, the IT guy from her office, and together they witness an old man, Sammy, have a heart attack in the middle of the street. They take care of him until EMS arrives and check in on him as he recovers in hospital. For the first time in her life, Eleanor finds herself enjoying time with other people – building relationships and miking plans outside of her normal routine.

This is definitely a good book. I don’t want to say any spoilers, so I’ll try and talk in general terms, but I really like Eleanor’s evolution throughout this novel. The changes in her do feel very natural and believable and I didn’t think any of the interactions were forced. The novel climaxes at a very odd spot, about the 70% mark, but I did like watching Eleanor grow and heal throughout the last 30%. I liked that it wasn’t rushed or that she’s not just suddenly better, because that is not believable.

I absolutely loved Raymond. He was so down to earth and accepting. The thing I didn’t like about The Rosie Project was that I didn’t ever really buy into Rose and Don’s relationship, but I had no problem believing Eleanor and Raymond’s. Eleanor is a bit of a social outcast, but she’s also pretty likable and funny and I liked that Raymond was able to laugh with her and accept her little quirks and idiosyncrasies.

Taking the time to write this review and reflect on the book is actually improving my opinion of it (and I still have a book club meeting coming up, which might lower or increase my rating). I do think this is a good story, hence why I’m still giving it 3.5 stars, and it did make me think a lot afterwards. But I just can’t ignore that I was bored for a lot of the reading of the novel.

I know this book is narrated the way Eleanor thinks, which is mostly without emotion, but I am a very emotional person, so I found it really hard to engage in the story and I never felt anything tugging at me to pick this book up again once I put it down. And that’s totally fine. These are still important stories that should be told, it’s just not necessarily for me. It still helped me appreciate the way that some other people experience and move about in the world and I don’t regret reading it. Just not going to be a favourite.

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Beartown


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: Fredrik Backman
Genres: Fiction
Read: May 2017

 

I really liked A Man Called Ove and Britt-Marie was Here, but Beartown was definitely my favourite Fredrik Backman novel to date! This was quite different then his other work, but it was excellent!

This is how you do large casts. I just read Paula Hawkins’ new book, Into the Water, which had a huge cast of characters, but she did justice for none of them. Beartown has a huge number of characters as well, but it really worked in this book. The characters are slowly introduced throughout the course of the novel and their relationships to one another are clearly indicated, so it wasn’t hard to follow and I was thrilled to see a lot of who I thought would be minor characters have some really interesting stories. Every character was well realized and well developed considering how little focus some of the characters got.

The characters reminded me a little of Melina Marchetta‘s work in that they grew in ways you did not anticipate and that you grew to like characters that you didn’t like initially. This shouldn’t have been a surprise though as Backman does an excellent job at making you love slightly unlikeable characters in all his novels. I loved the way Backman would present characters in different ways depending on whose point of view you were reading and that perspective could totally change your opinion of any character. For example I loved how characters like Bobo flip-flopped throughout the entire novel – you wanted to love him and then he would disappoint you and then you would love him again.

“It doesn’t take long to persuade each other to stop seeing a person as a person. And when enough people are quiet for long enough, a handful of voices can give the impression that everyone is screaming.”

I was totally impressed with the writing in Beartown. I highlighted so many passages throughout reading the book and I was really impressed with how Backman handled the serious topics in the novel as a male writer. I don’t want to give anything away because I think it’s best to go into this book blind, but it was definitely culturally relevant and very moving.  

I found the entire novel to be very insightful into sports culture and rape culture, both of which are often largely entwined, as well as the emotions that cause us to perceive things the way we do. It was a great novel about family, friends, sportsmanship, winning, and community (among many other things). There was so much going on in this book and so many different themes explored alongside the main theme.

“Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes much easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil. The easiest way to unite a group isn’t through love, because love is hard. It makes demands. Hate is simple.”

Definitely recommend this one for everyone! There was no part of this novel that I disliked and I think anyone can relate to the story.