by Guest Reviewer, and author of ‘Helios Sphere‘, Eleanor Duvivier
It has been a long time since I’ve felt compelled to write down my thoughts about a book.
Eleanor and I (also called Eleanor) connected. We went on an adventure together through the ink and the turn of the page. I should have known, it’s not often you come across a heroine called Eleanor. Eleanor is not a conventional heroine and at times it’s hard to see her as a heroine at all. In fact, at first I felt sure that she would be revealed as a psychopath. This balance on the line of character profiles is truly intriguing.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is about a woman who thinks she is fine and is quite happy plodding along in that bubble until events start happening at her which makes her realise that she really isn’t fine at all. For those, like me, with mental health issues that would worry about reading due to the last bit please don’t worry. The author is empathetic and it isn’t used as a plot twist and moved on without proper appreciation and treatment. Eleanor’s moving on is given such care and attention that I’ve never seen anywhere else.
Despite the book being about Eleanor there is a network of solid characters in this novel. Eleanor learns to converse with people, make friends and care for others as well as herself. It is a story about how Eleanor loves herself to love others. This in itself is unconventional. It isn’t necessarily a story about Eleanor falling in love with a specific person although one could be fooled to think that at first. When you struggle you know the first step is self-love and acceptance. We can’t give from an empty cup after all.
What resonated with me was that Eleanor has scars on the same side of her face as I do mine due to a fire. I shan’t say why Eleanor’s fire started. When I was in primary school camping with Mum we got caught up in a tent fire and the end result was we were hospitalised with scars that we would share for life. My flowery dress got caught upon the tent pole and my Mum had to tear melting tent apart with her hand to free me.
For years I was bullied for surviving and called all manner of things for having scars. Early on the scars were rigid and pink like mountains across my dark skin, in time they have paled. It is small reactions that Eleanor does: showing the best side of her face, fearing the hairdresser, fearing the wielder of the makeup brush, not feeling perfect and being afraid of perfection. These truly resonate with me. There is a way that you act when you have scars that you hope no one notices.
It was the first book in a long time that I have laughed, cried, contemplated my own life, stayed up late to finish, oo’d, ahh’d and genuinely annoyed the other people around me about whilst reading. I will read it again once I have time, just so that I can digest it all.
Since I started post-Uni summer I’ve been catching up with my reading list. I’ve got books from three Christmases ago that I need to get round to. This treat was the first on the list and in it I found a twenty pound note from my Mum – thanks Mum! That’s what I get for taking so long to get round to a book, eh? A little surprise in the pages.
When you’ve been reading extracts of books and Uni reading for what feels like forever getting stuck into a book for pleasure was a real gift. It was difficult to avoid spoilers during my Creative Writing MA as everyone was starting threads about it and was reading it that winter. I can see why they were so obsessed. This book was a gift in itself, had a gift in it, and was given as a gift.
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