Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is THE book of the summer. Everywhere one turns, there’s the turquoise cover with a cartoonish woman crossing her arms staring back at them. I was drawn to the cover and I just knew this was going to make my list of Favorite Books of 2017. So that’s why it’s so hard for me to say that…I didn’t love it. In fact, I wouldn’t have even finished it if I hadn’t a.) spent $26 on it, and b.) everyone I know, love, and respect in the #bookstagram community hadn’t read, loved, and rated it.
My biggest problem with the book was Eleanor. I know many people found her to be charming, witty, and endearing, but I simply found her to be pretentious, rude, and patronizing. She saw everyone else’s faults and none of her own. Raymond was the sweetest friend she’s ever had and she continually cut down the way he dressed and the way he ate. As I was reading, I kept wondering how she could be such a mean girl to the only friend she’s ever had! She stalked and obsessed over a mediocre musician – and I found this part of the story distracting and unnecessary and CREEPY!
Throughout the story, it was clear that Eleanor had suffered a traumatic event when she was a child. I knew the allusions would eventually lead to the big reveal, but I found it irritating that it was such a large part of the story, yet it wasn’t until the very end that we finally got to learn what had actually happened to Eleanor. Had it been revealed sooner, I feel like I would have connected more favorably to her character and quirky personality traits.
Once the big reveal happened, the story picked up for me (earning it an extra ½ star!). This is where Eleanor actually started to show some maturity and growth. I suppose that’s what I enjoy when reading a book – watching a character grow, learn, and redeem themselves. Finally, I saw Eleanor realize that she’s not so perfect herself:
Eleanor, I said to myself, sometimes you’re too quick to judge people. There are all kinds of reason why they might not look like the kind of person you’d want to sit next to on a bus, but you can’t sum someone up in a ten-second glance. That’s simply not enough time. The way you try not to sit next to fat people, for example. There’s nothing wrong with being overweight, is there? They could be eating because they’re sad, the same way you used to drink vodka. They could have had parents that never taught them how to cook or eat healthily. They could be disabled and unable to exercise, or else they could have an illness that contributes to weight gain despite their best efforts. You just don’t know, Eleanor, I said to myself.
I appreciated how Eleanor eventually soften. I wanted more of this new Eleanor – the one that wasn’t so judgmental, unkind, and closed off. I loved the relationship between Raymond and Eleanor. He stuck with her and softened her, supporting her through her journey to a healed heart. Their relationship was lovely, and ultimately, saved the book for me.
Ignis durum probate. “Fire tests gold.” The rest of the phrase: “…and adversity tests the brave.”
I really enjoyed the last 1/3 of the book very much; I wish more of the book would have had the same depth and insight. Eleanor’s quirky character reminded me of the book, A Man Called Ove. I personally preferred Ove over Eleanor because I liked his character and the story more.
I’m curious…have you read this one, and if you did, what were your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you!
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