Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. Really, she is. The fact that she lives alone, is seen as strange by everyone around her and probably relies a bit too much on alcohol doesn’t matter. She’s fine. Really…
This book is one that’s gotten an overwhelming mount of hype. It’s won awards, it was on everyone’s favourites lists of last year, and it slowly became one of those books that while it might not seem my cup of tea, I figured I’d try it nonetheless. Ignoring all the thoughts that said “this book is probably not for me”, I went ahead and gave it a go.
I should listen to myself more.
This book was not for me. It’s not even a case of the hype letting me down. I didn’t go in with ridiculous expectations because I simply didn’t know what I’d think – it was the hype vs my reading taste. But even so, I didn’t expect myself to be considering DNFing it 50 pages in.
I stuck with it though, mainly because I did have some curiosity about Eleanor’s background. It’s mentioned early on that Eleanor’s face is scarred from burns, and her backstory is hinted at time and again. The nudges towards it do prove effective – after all, I did keep reading. And it sounds weird to admit, but we all kind of love a…tragic? dramatic? intense?…story. As dark as it might be, most of us can’t help digging for answers. But when the entire book had hinted and nudged at this locked away backstory straining to be released…it finally being told in the space of a few pages at the end seemed a bit off balance. Chapters were spent building up Eleanor’s reluctance to explain the events of her childhood, and then within a few pages she’d told the entire thing to both a therapist and friend. While I don’t doubt this is how it happens for a lot of people, I think maybe more of the “after” period of such revelations needed to be shown to balance the book out some more. Four hundred pages of restraint, only for all to be let out and accepted in the last two chapters. Eh?
I did like seeing the process of Eleanor going to therapy. It’s not something you see represented too often, so when it’s shown to be a difficult process but one that might actually help…well, there’s value in that. Seeing Eleanor struggle with her emotions and thoughts as well as her relationships with those around her proved to be one of the winning points for me. It was relatable, authentic, and refreshing to see on page.
Then there’s Eleanor herself, who – as mentioned before – everyone finds a bit strange. It’s true that she doesn’t quite get how to simply be in social situations, and seems to assess the world differently to most. She speaks rather formally, and admittedly it’s jarring to read at first. But you soon grow used to Eleanor and her ways, which kind of feels like a purposeful move. Finding her jarring and odd at first, only to grow accustomed to her? Sounds like most of the characters…
But I just didn’t really get it. It felt like Eleanor’s quirkiness was reiterated again and again, and for what purpose? No, you don’t need a purpose in being different. And it’s nice to see someone who doesn’t gracefully flow through social situations. I just couldn’t help but wonder why I was reading the everyday life of Eleanor. I think this I why I don’t often get along with this genre – reading about everyday life bores me. And no matter how quirky you make a character, I’m not going to be interested in their routine of going to work, drinking at the weekend and going shopping. This book had too much of that for me to get along with.
Honestly, to me this book just felt like “the combo” again. That being the combination of tragic story x “quirky” character = bestseller. It reminded me of an older version of John Green’s books.
But hey, it apparently works. Just not for me.
I didn’t hate this book. As I said before, I appreciated the therapy rep, and I have to admit Eleanor’s story went beyond what I imagined. I also really appreciated how it kind of avoided the “a romance will fix everything” trope. It seemed to be leading that way, but I think it’s left pretty open and shows Eleanor dealing with things independently, first and foremost. SO there’s that. But ultimately, I just didn’t get along with this book. It was too much of the everyday crossed with “the combo” to win me over. I know so many people adore this book though, so I’m willing to guess it’s just my reading tastes that didn’t match.
Rated 2/5 stars
Until next time,