Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Seventeen members were welcomed to this month’s meeting with apologies and their thoughts on the book received from those unable to attend.

Brenda opened the discussion by asking members what they thought of this book and it became very apparent quickly that this was a book that members really did love and enjoy reading.  It was thought to be a beautifully well written book that cleverly drew you in with each chapter revealing more and more as the story progressed.  A very readable book full of thought provoking issues and as a few members said “sucking you back in” even well after finishing it. The revelations relating to Eleanor’s unfolding past, detailing a moving sincere journey discovering herself or from Eleanor’s point of view her “letting go”.  A book, that for some, had started on the superficial side but then moved more in depth to the mental health issues, the loneliness factor, usually associated with the older generation, but had not been really thought of when relating to the younger generation as in this case with Eleanor being just 30 years old and how the acts of interwoven kindness and friendship had positively affected her own survival and healing of painful memories throughout her own “journey”. A couple of members said they were a little bored and annoyed with the storyline at times but as it picked up got “hooked” and “reeled back” in again.

Members then discussed how her mental health issues had made her who she had become with a few members thinking that she could have been perhaps suffering from Aspergers. The turmoil, her scarring, her lack of social skills, the total guilt she felt, together with a disjointed and on the whole sad upbringing from the age of 10 years, mainly due to the lack of proper support from the many foster carers (who themselves sadly did not have full knowledge of her actual situation) and who did not understand how to “handle” her and the most obvious of all, the affect that her mother and her influences had had on her life. All these factors and chain of events contributing and unravelling caused her to be labelled as a “damaged” child full of insecurities and needs. Everyone said they felt sad when reading the many emotional and hurtful sayings from her mother. Several members had also been very surprised, following the unfolding details in the newspaper articles describing the fateful fire and events, of the realisation that “Mummy” only existed in Eleanor’s mind and was not either in a Mental Institution or even in prison and had died in the fire she had started, along with Eleanor’s 4 year old sister Marianne locked in a wardrobe that Eleanor was unable to open!

Sammy (the pavement casualty) together with his family, Bob (her boss), Ray’s mother and of course particularly Raymond (who must have been a bit of geek it was thought!) were all thought likeable characters in the book. Raymond had shown great compassion and friendliness in helping Eleanor with her insecurities and lack of social skills and it was thought by several members that they might actually “get together” in the end.

Eleanor was described as always intriguing and often funny with most of us relating to some of her little foibles in their own lives. She managed to attend University, although not much detail was written here apart from her first bad relationship of course.  She held down the job at Bob’s company successfully competently for 10 years too despite everything.

So to conclude……..    A beautifully written book.  Full of touches of human kindness.  The true meaning of friendship.  Intriguingly and cleverly unfurling with every chapter of discovery covering various thought provoking subjects in a very sensitive way making many of us realise unlike Eleanor, how lucky you are if you had a loving and happy upbringing in life.

Unanimously members gave this book a “thumbs up” and a book which would certainly be recommended to friends.