I’ve just read the oddest book, and I adored it. It’s been such a long time since I last truly loved the voice and feel of a novel (admittedly though, I have only been binging romance novels – which, while necessary and very enjoyable, are rather anemic when it comes to solid plot and characterization).
Eleanor Oliphant is narrated by Eleanor herself, and according to the blurb it’s about ‘when Eleanor and a stranger save an old man’s life, and they rescue each other’. But it’s so much more than that. From the get go, Eleanor establishes herself as one of the oddest voices I’ve read in narrative fiction, both incredibly grown-up and reflective, but naive and emotionally neglected. I’d say it’s a little like if an alien had to navigate the real world, but that would be undermining her incredibleness. It’s just such a pleasure as she grows and develops through her interactions with the world – indeed, her navigation of the beauty and fashion industry is a particular joy. One of my favorite bits was when she visits a Bobbi Brown store multiple times and seems very confused as to where Bobbi is.
The plot of the book follows Eleanor as a series of chance meetings inspire her to shake up her existence and venture out into the ‘real world’, although I’m sure she’d take umbrage at my words (isn’t all the world ‘real?’). Watching her manage the changes to her set schedule (hour for lunch, crossword, repeat) doesn’t ever feel tedious or boring. Instead, the reader is left with a sense of natural development and her journey towards loving herself is so well written, there’s never any sense of dragging.
The revelations of her past – and her attempts to deal with it – are also very well handled, and it never feels like emotional trauma porn for the sake of it. Yes, you do ache for Eleanor, but it never feels like the author wants you to wallow in it. Indeed, it’s one of the more refreshing and (although this may not be the right term) healthy takes on trauma and moving on with your life.
All in all, this was one of the most charming books I’ve read in a while. It was delightful getting to immerse myself in the voice of Eleanor, and figuring out exactly what happened to her was legit anxiety inducing, in the best way. It also featured one of the nicest developments of friendship I’ve seen in a while. There’s no character that really stands out as amazing, and it’s honestly part of the charm. Every person who exists within Eleanor’s world feels like a real person. Which, while not always fun to read (one needs some romance novel men after all), it’s certainly one of the most refreshing books I’ve read.
I’m so glad I picked it up on a whim. It’s the first book in what I’m hoping is going to be a long spell of reading for pleasure again. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an unusual, well-written character piece.