Well, what can I say about Miss Eleanor Oliphant? She is not the fun, bubbly, interesting character that most people expect to be the main character of a book. She is introverted, not well socialised, lonely, dismissive, rude and suffers from depression and alcohol addiction, though she does not recognise this.
I personally grew to love Eleanor. The more I got to know about her past, the more I started to understand her traits. She did not mean to be rude and dismissive, she simply did not understand how to socialise with people, she did not understand social gatherings, dress codes, emotions or facial expressions… in fact a lot of things that we take for granted, things that we assume everyone must know, Eleanor did not understand. For example, she ordered a pizza and placed the money in an envelope, put her shoes back on and switched on the kettle in case the delivery person would want to come in for a drink…
At first I thought that Eleanor may have been on the autistic spectrum, struggling with communication and reading facial expressions are common traits of autism. But as the story went on, I started to understand that her experiences throughout her childhood are much to blame for her behaviours. I started to love her, my heart warmed to her and I began to feel sorry for her. It was obvious as a reader that Eleanor needed professional help for her issues, but she herself could not see the problem.
She slowly becomes friends with a co-worker, Raymond. Who sees through Eleanor and can tell that there is something not quite right. He shows her a lot of care and attention, though she struggles to accept this at the start.
Their friendship becomes key to the story, as in the end, it is Raymond who manages to encourage Eleanor to get help and see a counsellor. This is when Eleanor finally opens up about her past, allowing herself to remember the memories that she has pushed to the back of her mind for over 20 years, avoiding them, believing that by doing so, everything would be okay.
There are subtle hints of Eleanor’s past throughout the book. I liked how the author did this, making the reader curious, wanting to find out more. I wanted to understand Eleanor more as a character and therefore I was very intrigued to find out more about her past and what she had been through.
I do think there was a huge hype around this book and it may have fallen short when it came to reaching those expectations for me. Though I did thoroughly enjoy the book and I would recommend it to others, I also understand why some people became bored with it. As mentioned earlier, Eleanor is not the most interesting character, so some people may lose interest in her… I knew there was more to her and I wanted to find out more, therefore I did become hooked on this story.
We discussed this book yesterday (21.02.19) as part of SeeTheUniverse Book Club and it received an average of 3 stars out of 5.
There are some nice messages throughout the book, overall it was a pleasant read and I would recommend others to read it.
If you have read this book and would like to have your say in our discussion, the questions were as follows:
- What were your initial thoughts of Eleanor as a character? Did your opinion of her change as the book went on?
- How did you find the book? Was it easy to read, where there parts you found difficult? – should the book come with a trigger warning?
- Do you have a favourite quote from the book?
- What did you make of Eleanor and Raymond’s friendship/relationship?
- ‘Is knowing always better than not knowing? Discuss.’
- Can ‘badness’ be inherited?
- what would you rate this book out of 5? And can you summarise your thoughts into one sentence?
Please feel free to answer some or all of the questions in the comments below! I would love to hear your opinions.