Eleanor Oliphant is a most unusual heroine. With her pithy views on other people’s habits, she might easily be distinctly unlikeable - but the reader warms to her almost immediately. It is clear she is a misfit,
but also obvious that she is the way she is because of some tragedy in her past.
Eleanor tells her story in her own words and, page by page in the early
chapters, we build up a strange, but compelling, picture of our heroine. We learn, when she bends to secure her shoe, that she wears shoes with Velcro fastenings - not exactly the usual footwear for a thirty year old. Her hair is long, reaching her waist,
and she has a disfiguring scar across her right cheek. She makes sure she doesn’t lose her mittens by stringing them through the sleeves of her coat. She spends her solitary lunch hours solving the Daily Telegraph’s cryptic crosswords and her colleagues
at work laugh at her behind her back. Every Wednesday she talks to her mother whose venomous criticism of everything she says and does is excruciatingly painful for Eleanor to hear and for us to read. At weekends, she sees nobody, her best friends a couple
of bottles of Glen vodka.
This is a poignant tale of loneliness and, in the end, the power of human kindness. A series of events change Eleanor’s life
and the reader lives through them with her, willing her on. A work colleague, Raymond, refuses to be put off by her refusal to engage and persists in pulling her along with him. The elderly man whose life they save becomes a friend as does Raymond’s
sweet mother - both introducing Eleanor to the healing properties of a loving touch.
Eleanor is a little like Alex Woods (see my previous book review of The Universe
versus Alex Woods.) Both are misfits, shaped by events outside their control. Both, in the end, are survivors. Both are incredibly brave, with a silent courage borne out of circumstances.
Discovering the truth about the tragedy that befell the ten year old Eleanor is truly shocking. It’s one of a number of revelations that keep the pages turning as the reader wills our brave, unintentionally funny, most
unusual heroine to face her past and find a way of finally moving on.
This book won its author Gail Honeyman the Costa Book Award for 2017. I loved, loved, loved