Eleanor Oliphant Is Absolutely Fine - Book Club Review

Posted at 07:23am on 15th November 2018

Have you ever been aware of others talking about you behind your back? Perhaps when you've been standing alone, catching the flickering glances of a nearby group? Knowing, without doubt, that the whispered exchanges in some way refer to you?

So how did it feel? Especially if, like Katie Piper, for example, who took part in the BBC programme Strictly Come Dancing, you were the victim of an acid attack that left your face burned and scarred? And how do you respond if people ask you how you are, following such circumstances?

Victim of an inoperable lifelong intestinal disease myself, I know, full well, what that is like. As does the main character in Eleanor Oliphant is Absolutely Fine. 'I'm fine. Really!' we insist. Be honest. Isn't that how most of us react?

This book, by Gail Honeyman (my drawing of her on the left), was the choice of my Book Club and, apart from one member who found the ending unsatisfactory, it was well-liked by all. Who could not sympathise with the obvious needs - and fortitude - of a character like Eleanor Oliphant?

Fantasising about a pop star, she convinces her mother - who rings her every Wednesday, but otherwise never appears on the scene - that this is a real and developing relationship. Questions arise in the reader's mind as to whether 'Mummy' is in prison, or otherwise institutionalised. Either way, she is clearly not a loving mother, telling Eleanor, frequently, that she finds her hideous.

The intervention of social workers eventually reveals a dark, and unexpected, past. But when Eleanor is given promotion at work, and her colleague, Raymond, befriends her, and the two of them rescue a man in need, our hopes are raised. Will this be the turning point in Eleanor's life? Have she and Raymond embarked upo a lasting relationship? Is this the love that Eleanor so clearly deserves?

When yet another tragedy occurs and, for the first time, she reveals all, how could we not long for Eleanor's mental and emotional healing to corroborate her insistence that Eleanor Oliphant is (truly) Absolutely Fine.

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