Longlisted for the Women’s Prize 2018 and the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018 and winner of the Costa First Novel Book Award 2017, Eleanor Oliphant is a book you NEED to read.
This book received plenty of hype last year and that seems to be continuing. That amount of fanfare put me off the book at first but it magically appeared on my bookshelf and so I thought it was time to join the masses.
It has to be said – this book will uplift you. It will make you cheer on for the protagonist, the ever entertaining and complex Eleanor Oliphant. Honeyman captures you from the first chapter and you read on hoping that Eleanor will find the happiness she so utterly deserves.
Loneliness is the overarching theme of this book and the internal struggle of having to pick yourself up after a multitude of put downs.
It starts with the apt excerpt from Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City:
…the lonelier a person gets, the less adept they become at navigating social currents. Loneliness grows around them, like mould or fur, a prophylactic that inhibits contact, no matter how badly contact is desired. Loneliness is accretive, extending and perpetuating itself. Once it becomes impacted, it is by no means easy to dislodge.
From there we meet Eleanor Oliphant and learn she has had an unconventional childhood, lives on her own, is ridiculed at work by her colleagues and has not one friend in the world. She is a creature of comfort and lives by the habits she has created – a safe place for her and her life. That all changes when she happens to witness an old man collapse on a pedestrian crossing. That one incident changes her life and outlook forever.
Without giving the story away, Eleanor is thrust into the world of relationships. She begins to care for people and vice versa. That purpose, those acts of kindness – whatever you want to call it – dislodges her loneliness and we see Eleanor start to take control of her life.
With a nod to Austen and Brontë, Honeyman has produced such a fantastic debut. A truly wonderful book with a hugely important message. Eleanor, and the impact of one act of human kindness, will be with me for some time.