“Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine” by Gail Honeyman – Book Review

“Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine”.  Yeah… sure.  If you fell off a cliff and someone stumbled across your prone body on the ground and asked “How are you?” and you replied “I’m fine”. That kind of ‘fine’. When strangers say they are ‘fine’, they are usually not – and everyone is essentially a stranger to Eleanor.

“It wasn’t that I needed anyone. I was, as I had mentioned, perfectly fine.”

From page one of this marvelous book, I loved Eleanor. Yes, she is socially inept (to put in mildly), yes, she can be rude, abrasive, intolerant, and even (unknowingly) unkind. Still, I loved her. She is quirky, strange, highly intelligent, judgmental, and lonely. Oh, so lonely…

“When the silence and the aloneness press down and around me, crushing me, carving through me like ice, I need to speak aloud sometimes, if only for proof of life.”

Although she has a degree in Classics, she works in the unexciting field of accounting – keeping the books for a digital design firm in Glasgow. Her routine never varies. She works, she buys food, she goes home to her council flat, she sleeps. Repeat. Repeat. The only day that is slightly different is Wednesday, when she speaks to Mummy. Until the weekend, when she buys at least two bottles of vodka to make the time pass until she can go to work again.

“I rarely imbibe alcohol in public.
I only really enjoy it when I’m alone, at home.”

Eleanor confesses to an unconventional upbringing. We know that she has a nasty scar on one side of her face, and others on her hands. There was an ‘incident‘ when she was ten years old. After that time she was in foster care, with myriad different foster parents, siblings, and homes, all of which culminated in her going to university.

“Mummy has always told me that I am ugly, freakish, vile. She’s done so from my earliest years, even before I acquired my scars.”

Eleanor is now thirty years old. She knows this because she saw the date on a stranger’s newspaper. She had forgotten it was her birthday. An easy thing to do when no one knows it is your special day – and when no one has ever given you a birthday gift.

When her computer malfunctions at work, the new IT guy comes to her assistance. His name is Raymond, and he will unknowingly change Eleanor’s life. She thinks he is unkempt and she disapproves of his clothing and shoes. She hates that he always smells of cigarette smoke, and that he chews food with his mouth often open… Also she thinks him a ‘spectacularly unsophisticated conversationalist‘. Strangely, over time, they become ‘pals’.

I loved that Eleanor’s favourite book was “Jane Eyre”. She identified with Jane as both she and Jane were left with so much pain at a young age.  Her only quibble with the story was that there is insufficient mention of Pilot. Because, as she says, “You can’t have too much dog in a book.”

Because Eleanor has no knowledge of what is socially acceptable behaviour , no experience to have learned it, no one to teach her how to conduct her life, she has no filters. She believes that honesty is the best policy, so she says exactly what she thinks. Often to the chagrin, or, sometimes amusement, of those around her.

Near the end of the book, Eleanor procures a female rescue cat which she calls Glen. (named for the brand of vodka she drank). Their relationship was wonderful.

Eleanor was such a strong and memorable character. I will never forget her.  While visiting Eleanor’s world I was sad for her, I cried copiously, and… I laughed aloud. Any book that has the reader running that gamut of emotions is a stellar read in my book. You MUST read this book!

My heartfelt thanks goes out to Viking (Penguin Random House Canada) via NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this wonderful book.

Covers for this marvelous book include:

My favourite is the one on the right, but the one in the middle has more direct relation to the story. I wonder which one is YOUR favourite?







Gail Honeyman‘s novel has sold to almost thirty territories worldwide, and it was chosen as one of the Observer’s Debuts of the Year for 2017. Gail was also awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award in 2014, and has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.

Reese Witherspoon’s new company Hello Sunshine has set up to produce the Gail Honeyman novel Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.


Gail Honeyman is a graduate of the universities of Glasgow and Oxford. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was short-listed for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress and is Honeyman’s debut novel. She lives in Glasgow, Scotland.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Favorite books, Literary fiction, NetGalley and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

53 Responses to “Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine” by Gail Honeyman – Book Review

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  8. Twitter @FGentleman says:

    Like the question you’ve posed at the end about the three different covers. All good in different ways, I think. (I bought the middle version, which only makes sense once you near the end, but I loved the blotchy script – typography much imitated elsewhere.) But I think it’s the title that does it: so recognisable – gllb wording which we know means that Eleanor Elephant is precisely NOT fine. A brainwave!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I loved this book so much! I just wanted to hug and hug and hug Eleanor!


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  11. Coreena McBurnie says:

    Great review, very thoughtful. This is now one of my favourite books — I’m recommending it to everyone.


  12. Pingback: Welcome November – Fictionophile’s updates and October’s book haul | Fictionophile

  13. Oh I’m so glad you liked this- I really want to read this!! Great review!


  14. Books that have you running the whole gamut of emotions are rare so I’m so glad this one worked out so well for you. Another for my wishlist!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Sandra says:

    Definitely one to go straight to the top of the pile. Thanks for a great review, Lynne.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I listened to this on Audible and it was such a moving story! It’s definitely one of my favourite books, great review!!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Ocean Bream says:

    I bought this for a friend then frantically decided I would need to read it first, just in case it wasn’t her standard! Didn’t have the time because I was working long hours, and just stumbled across your review! I love this review, so much so that I am tempted to read the book myself!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. abbywd says:

    Great post! I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book. It’s on my top 10 of 2017. Glad you liked it too!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. What a fantastic review! I’ve had my eye on this one for a while, one of the many book clubs I read along with is reading this in January so I’m patiently waiting till then before I pick it up 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  20. skyecaitlin says:

    This is a wonderful review, Lynne; this gets put on my TBR!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Zoe says:

    Great review, Lynne!
    I think a lot of people who overlooked this book before will be reading it now. I know I will 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. carhicks says:

    This is a book that I never really looked at, but after your wonderful review I am going to have to take a serious look at it.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. gkdewolfe says:

    Lynne I didn’t expect to care for this book
    but once I started I loved it!! Unique in many

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Wonderful review, Fictionphile! I’m putting this in my queue right now!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Susie | Novel Visits says:

    Great review! I absolutely loved Eleanor, too. She was such an original character, so flawed and yet so lovable. I listened to this one on audio and the narration by Cathleen McCarron was also outstanding.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Isn’t she special ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  27. i have the second edition of your cover-list and I started reading it a couple of weeks ago but I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe I’m not in the right head-space right now or maybe it’s more than that but I’m definitely curious to find out whether I’ll end up loving this book as so many others are!

    Maybe I should lock myself up in a room with solely this book, haha.
    Your review at least makes me consider doing that.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy it is VERY true that you have to be in the right ‘head-space’ for a book. I imagine it is a book that you’ll either LOVE a lot, or DISLIKE. One thing you wont’t be is ambivalent. Eleanor is a character that you’ll have strong feelings for, one way or the other.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Great review!
    I am currently listening and loving this audiobook.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Annie says:

    Everyone shares the same opinion about this book so I think I should read it too! Looks like a real winner, I don’t know why but the title didn’t really attract me but seems like it’s an amazing book!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I keep seeing this one in my local library … your review has definitely made me want to take it out! Sounds good.

    Liked by 1 person

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