Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Gail Honeyman’s brilliant debut novel features one of the most quirky and utterly original heroines you are likely to meet – Eleanor Oliphant, a quiet, socially inept office worker who ‘survives’ each day.

Cover of Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine

Unpitying and unambitious, Eleanor struggles with a past she can hardly bear to remember and which readers come to learn more of as the story unfolds. Eleanor is ‘completely fine’ simply because she has to be. She lives by the same carefully scheduled timetable each week of lunchtime meal deals, visits to the grocer for two bottles of vodka, and Wednesday talks with her vindictive ‘mummy’ until, one day, she meets Raymond, a clumsy, ‘unhygenic’ IT man from work. When the two rescue an elderly man who has collapsed on the side walk, an unlikely friendship begins to form between them, the type of friendship capable of showing Eleanor it is never too late to reclaim your life and allow yourself to be happy again.

Simultaneously, Eleanor finds ‘the love of her life’, an arrogant rock star who she concedes she hasn’t met just yet, leading to some hilarious ‘encounters’. There is a great passage where Eleanor glimpses him in Tesco’s and feels she must give him the benefit of her shopping wisdom via her sole means of communication, Twitter:

@eloliph
A Tesco Club Card is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. You should DEFINITELY sign up for one. A concerned friend xx

@johnnieLrocks
Tesco: stop pushing Big Brother spy-slash-loyalty card on here. It like living in a police state, yo #hungover #leavemealone #fightthepower

As ever, Eleanor remains touchingly oblivious. She is brutally honest herself, ‘helpfully’ telling people things they should not be doing and becoming stunned by ‘how rude’ they can be when they do not respond. She has lacked social contact for so long, that lack of knowledge rather than rudeness seems to be the cause of her faux pas.

Gail Honeyman has created a very remarkable character in Eleanor Oliphant. I loved the sensitivity with which Honeyman handled her past. It is impossible not to be moved by Eleanor’s observation that:

“When you read about ‘monsters, house hold names… you forget they had families. They don’t just spring from nowhere. You never think about the people that are left behind to deal with the aftermath of it all”

Or by moments such as when Eleanor, moved to tears, thanks Laura the hairdresser for making her ‘shiny’. Perhaps the part I loved most about this book though was the sheer warmth and ultimately, hope in Eleanor’s story. Her story is full of touching as well as hillarious moments which give a huge lift to the otherwise very distressing theme of crippling loneliness. There is a lovely scene where Raymond brings the convalescing Eleanor a Spongebob helium balloon:

“He passes me the ribbon, and the balloon soared towards my low ceiling, then bobbed against it as though it was trying to escape.
‘What is it supposed to be?” I said. “Is it cheese?” I had never been given a helium balloon before, and certainly not one this odd looking.
“It’s Spongebob, Eleanor,” he said, speaking very slowly and clearly as though I were some sort of idiot. “Spongebob Squarepants?”
A semi-human bath sponge with protruding front teeth! On sale as if it were something unremarkable! For my entire life, people have said that I’m strange, but really, when I see things like this, I realize that I’m actually relatively normal.”

I haven’t fallen in love so much with both a book and its narrator for a long time and happily give this brilliant novel a ten out of ten. If you’re looking for a witty, sensitive, uplifting read which perfectly captures the best and worst that life can offer, this wonderful book is a perfect choice for you.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman
Published by Harper Collins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008172121

Helen,
Central Library Peterborough

Zinio for Libraries is now RBdigital Magazines

Check out the new eMagazine app RBdigital, which is replacing Zinio for Libraries app. The RBdigital app comes with some great new features

  • In-app browsing, previews, title details and checkouts – browse download and read without leaving the app
  • Simple, clear menus
  • App notifications to keep you up to date.

Things you need to know:

  • You can download and start using the new RBdigital app now.
  • You can login using your Zinio for Libraries email/username and password.
  • The Zinio for Libraries app is still available to use until late August.
  • If you continue to use the Zinio for Libraries app, a countdown will appear to remind you to install the new RBdigital app from the app store.
  • eMagazines you have checked out will still be in your personal collection, but they will need to be re-downloaded in the new app, on each device you use. It won’t be possible to transfer content from the old app to the new one.
  • The Zinio for Libraries website’s functionality and appearance will not change but all references to Zinio will now be replaced with RBdigital.
  • Any URLs or links you use to reach the Zinio or RBdigital portal will continue to work.

If you haven’t used Zinio for Libraries maybe it is time to have a look at RBdigital Magazines.
Cover Cover Cover Cover Cover Cover Cover Cover

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

Laura Chant lives with her Mum and beloved little brother Jacko and she has ‘warnings’. Odd sensations overcome her. She’s had them before, when their Dad left the family home and when she met Sorry (Sorenson) a prefect at her high school. And now she’s had another one.

Cover of The Changeover

Warily she continues through her day at school, picks up Jacko and walks home, everything as normal. Except on the way they pass a shop that was never there before and the strange, rather sinister old bloke inside bothers her enormously…

Jacko’s health starts to deteriorate, his life hanging in the balance, and Laura is convinced it’s because of the man in the shop. Her Mum is struggling to make ends meet, keep her job and be a loving Mum, there for her children. It’s tough going and Laura’s mad ideas are just not going anywhere. Laura feels herself to be alone.

So she turns to Sorry for help, knowing, believing he is a witch.

The Changeover is classed as a teenage story with supernatural elements. I first heard it as an adult, as it was read on a children’s holiday programme. I missed the last few episodes and headed to the library. I had to know what happened. There appears to be more going on with Sorry and Laura than meets the eye and what happened to Jacko? Are Laura’s bizarre theories correct? I was so pleased I tracked the book down.

Whilst I have read sci-fi and Fantasy, The Changeover avoids both genres. It’s a darn good story with witches and a bit of magic thrown in and it works. I was caught up in a great story and characters. Jacko is a small boy I wanted to live, not die and I found myself driven to read on, to urge Laura to put some of her thoughts into action, to save him if she could.

As a young woman New Zealand author Elizabeth Knox met Margaret Mahy and got to know her well. In her introduction to the latest edition she writes of the her hero Margaret Mahy:

“I’m thinking of her laugh, her hats, her dogs and cats, her winter coughs, her knitted coats, her rainbow wig, and very imposing penguin suit. I’m thinking of her long sentences and pithy quips; of the rose window of the top bedroom of her flat in Cranmer Square; of her empty refrigerator, of her very model of a modern Major General and, in the same vein, her virtuoso “Bubble Trouble”, and the loving rapture in her grandson Harry’s eyes when he watched her perform it at the launch of Tessa Duder’s book”.

A recent reread of The Changeover as a middle aged adult and I still loved every minute of it AND there’s a movie coming in September AND its filmed in Christchurch, New Zealand, Margaret Mahy’s home town. Will watching a favoured book turned into a movie be iffy? Possibly (watch the trailer below and judge for yourself). But I will go and pay homage to a wonderful writer.

The Changeover
by Margaret Mahy
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781869713553