''Can I get you a drink?' the man yelled, over the top of the next song. I wondered whether the DJ had ever considered introducing a five-minute break between records, to allow people to go to the bar or the lavatory in peace. Perhaps I should suggest that to him later.
'No, thank you,' I said. 'I don't want to accept a drink from you, because then I would be obliged to purchase one for you in return, and I'm simply not interested in spending two drinks' worth of time with you.''
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is Gail Honeyman's debut work. It's a very heartfelt, funny and sad story about a young woman who's good at going through the movements of life, but less so at actually living. She's very sharp but hasn't been able to make friends, and an event from her childhood has caused her to have a strained relationship with her mother. She makes an acquintance in a colleague called Raymond, and things start to seem better for her when she meets someone she feels she could love. She changes her wardrobe and starts working on her social skills. Of course, changing your whole life is never really that easy.
There's a lot of real problems in this book. It talks a lot about loneliness and what it does to a person, how you can be lonely even when in a crowd, and how difficult it can be to live when you're so used to just surviving your days. It talks about what it's like to not be in touch with your family or even other people in general. When your life passes you by but you don't know how to stop it. Eleanor feels deeply relatable even though I don't actually share most of her life experiences.
Eleanor is great as a character. As you can see from my chosen quote, she's very sharp and funny without even meaning to be, and her inner dialogue is such a pleasure to read. I loved it and I loved her. Raymond is also great, he's late when Eleanor is early, messy when she's clean... you get the idea. They make a wonderful duo, and the dynamic of their friendship is great. Also so many points for the fact that Eleanor's life isn't suddenly made so much better by her falling in love and all her problems disappearing. That's all too common in books like this, and it makes people think depression and whatnot other mental problems are gone just like that.
Even though I liked this, I can't shake the feeling this book should've been around 100 pages shorter (it stands at 385 or so as it is). I saw a really good discussion about this in a Facebook group a couple of days ago, actually. It was mentioned that it's important not to cut 'day to day' life from your book because it's equally as important as what's happening. I'd like to argue that a book doesn't feel too long (case in point: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, or any of the others, really) if it's good enough. With this one though, sometimes I was dreadfully bored, in between the actual events. I think it could have been more concise.
I also saw the ending coming many miles away, though it had one twist I hadn't expected. About the twist (no spoilers though): some people say they didn't like it, but to me it really worked. Hm. To each their own, to each their own.
For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 16: A book which has got some award abroad. It was actually difficult finding a category for this, am I nearing the end yet?