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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
May 09, 2017 | 336 Pages
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    May 09, 2017 | 336 Pages

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    May 09, 2017 | 336 Pages

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“A charmer. . . satisfyingly quirky.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times “Books to Breeze Through This Summer”
“This wacky, charming novel. . . draws you in with humor, then turns out to contain both a suspenseful subplot and a sweet romance. . . Hilarious and moving.”People 

“Eleanor Oliphant is a quirky loner and a model of efficiency with her routine of frozen pizza, vodka and weekly phone calls with Mummy. [She’s] a woman beginning to heal from unimaginable tragedy, with a voice that is deadpan, heartbreaking and humorous all at once.” –, Best Books of 2017

“Simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking. . . Eleanor Oliphant may be completely fine, but this book is completely wonderful.” –PureWow

“Warm and funny. . . You’ll want to read it.”—TheSkimm

Eleanor Oliphant
[is] the kind of book you’ll want to devour in a single sitting.” -Vox, Best Books of 2017

“Warm and funny…plus Reese bought the rights to this one…You’ll want to read it.”—TheSkimm

“Sweet and satisfying, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine will speak to introverts who have ever felt a little weird about their place in the world.” –Bustle, 9 Books for Introverts to Read When They Just Don’t Feel Like Socializing”

“Equal parts charming and hilarious, this Reese Witherspoon-approved book is a must read for anyone struggling with their own self-discovery.” –Bustle, “13 Self-Love Stories About Women Finding Themselves Instead Of ‘The One’”

“Eleanor Oliphant is a truly original literary creation: funny, touching, and unpredictable. Her journey out of dark shadows is expertly woven and absolutely gripping.” –Jojo Moyes, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You

“I have read a few great novels recently, but the one that stuck with me the most over the last few months if Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and the entire time I beamed with joy at the beauty of this story. I fell in love with Eleanor and never wanted the book to end. I wanted so badly to keep following her story.” –Krysten Ritter, actress, producer, and author of Bonfire

“This wacky, charming novel…draws you in with humor, then turns out to contain both a suspenseful subplot and a sweet romance….Hilarious and moving.” People  

“A charmer. . . satisfyingly quirky.” Janet Maslin, The New York Times “Books to Breeze Through This Summer”

“This book gave me immense joy during a year that I think we can all agree was a challenge to every American’s joy center. Eleanor Oliphant is a remarkably memorable character, a socially awkward curmudgeon who often made me laugh out loud at the ways she is impervious to social conventions. It was pure pleasure watching her change and grow over the course of the book, her heart opening slowly like a late-blooming flower.” –Attica Locke, author of Bluebird, Bluebird, for Texas Monthly, “Best Books of 2017, According to Texas authors”

“Move over, Ove (in Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove)—there’s a new curmudgeon to love. . . Walking in Eleanor’s practical black Velcro shoes is delightfully amusing, her prudish observations leavened with a privately puckish humor. But readers will also be drawn in by her tragic backstory, which slowly reveals how she came to be so entirely Eleanor. Witty, charming, and heartwarming, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is a remarkable debut about a singular woman. Readers will cheer Eleanor as she confronts her dark past and turns to a brighter future. Feel good without feeling smarmy.” Booklist (starred review)

“Astounding.” –PopMatters

Eleanor Oliphant is endearing, [a] whip-smart read. . .  Perfectly paced, odd, shocking and hilarious, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a fascinating story about loneliness, hope, tragedy and humanity. Honeyman’s delivery is wickedly good, and Eleanor won’t leave you anytime soon.” –Associated Press

“Honeyman’s endearing debut is part comic novel, part emotional thriller, and part love story. . . hilarious, deadpan, and irresistible.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[A] captivating debut. . . a feel-good story that will make readers laugh and cheer for Eleanor as she learns that the past doesn’t dictate the future, and that happiness can be hers. This is a must-read for those who love characters with quirks.” –BookPage

“If you thought Fredrik Backman’s Ove was a charming curmudgeon, you’ll instantly fall for Eleanor.” –Hello Giggles

“The book is wonderfully, quirkily funny. You both ache for Eleanor. . . and laugh with her.” –Seattle Times 

“That Eleanor’s social awkwardness is extreme, sometimes painfully and often comically so, is far more apparent to the reader than it is to Eleanor herself — and that we get this through Eleanor’s own narration is a credit to the author’s cleverness and craft. . . A touching, funny novel.” –Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Debut author Honeyman expertly captures a woman whose inner pain is excruciating and whose face and heart are scarred, but who still holds the capacity to love and be loved. Eleanor’s story will move readers.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Eleanor Oliphant] happens to be among the most compelling and complex characters drawn in recent memory, one who is always peculiar, often infuriating, but funny and utterly endearing.” —The National (Scotland)

“Gail Honeyman’s wonderful debut novel hits the summer read sweet spot: an intelligent, complex, funny, heartbreaking book that you’ll want to read in a single sitting.” The Irish Times

“The human need for connection, initially scorned by Eleanor, is this heart-rending novel’s central theme. Eleanor Oliphant is most definitely not completely fine, but she is one of the most unusual and thought-provoking heroines of recent contemporary fiction.” —The Irish Times

“Heart-wrenching yet humorous; dark yet full of life—the debut novel from this Glasgow-based author is nothing short of extraordinary. This is a story… that everyone will be talking about this summer.” —Hello Canada, June 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is filled with laughter and hope, and has such faith in the power of love and friendship to rescue even the most damaged individuals.” Georgia Costal Illustrated

“We are truly living in a golden age for new female writing. Among my favourite books of the year has been Gail Honeyman’s debut, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Eleanor—30 going on 70, basically—is not a character you’ll forget in a hurry. And Honeyman has managed a brilliant weaving of light and shade; black humour and crushing tragedy. Reese Witherspoon has already snapped up the film rights.” The Independent (Ireland)
“Another fantastic book about someone outside the norm…. It’s misery memoir meets Adrian Mole with a bit of The Office thrown in. What’s not to like?” The Mail on Sunday

“Like a contemporary Jane Eyre, Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is a woman scarred by profound loneliness, and the shadow of a harrowing childhood she can’t even bear to remember. Bit by bit, and with extraordinary courage, however, Eleanor begins peeling the layers of protective numbness, letting others near for the first time, and reaching for the life she hasn’t believed she deserves. Deft, compassionate and deeply moving–Honeyman’s debut will have you rooting for Eleanor with every turning page. I loved this story.” –Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun

“So powerful–I completely loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.” –Fiona Barton, New York Times bestselling author of The Widow

“Moving, hilarious, and intriguing, just like its unique, anti-social, anti-heroine. You will fall in love with Eleanor Oliphant.” –J. Ryan Stradal, New York Times bestselling author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest

“Honeyman’s debut is a stunner, as buoyant and charming as it is heartwrenching and emotionally sophisticated. Poor Eleanor Oliphant–often clueless, at times maddening, but always fascinating–walks right off the page and into the reader’s heart. Not only is Eleanor Oliphant completely fine, she’s a revelation.” –Jonathan Evison, author of This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance

“Eleanor Oliphant endears herself to the reader with her cantankerous charm and her disarmingly inscrutable voice. A compulsive, irresistible narrative that arcs toward compassion and light.” –Mona Awad, author of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

“Heart-wrenching and wonderful!” –Nina Stibbe, bestselling author of Paradise Lodge

A Vogue Australia Book Club Pick, June 2017

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Gail Honeyman
Where did the idea for Eleanor Oliphant come from?

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine started with two related ideas. The first was loneliness, an issue that’s now thankfully starting to receive more attention as we begin to understand more about its often devastating consequences. I remembered reading an article in which a young woman, living in a big city, said that unless she went out of her way to make arrangements in advance, she’d often find herself not speaking to another human being from the time she left work on Friday night until her return to the office on Monday morning, and not by choice.

I started to wonder how such a situation could come about. When loneliness is discussed, it’s often in the context of the elderly, but I began to think about how it might manifest in younger people, and whether the issues might be slightly different for them. Was it harder to talk about, or even to identify, because their loneliness didn’t result from, say, the death of a spouse after decades of marriage, or from becoming housebound due to age-related illness? Did social media have an impact and, if so, was it positive or negative? Was it worse or better to find yourself lonely in a big city rather than in a small town or a village? In the end, it wasn’t difficult to imagine how a young woman with no family nearby could find herself in the situation described in the article; moving to a new city, she might rent a one-bedroom apartment, take a job at a small firm where she had nothing in common with her colleagues . . . narratively, the possibilities began to intrigue me.

The other strand that helped inform the book was the idea of social awkwardness. Only a few fortunate people are blessed with the ability to make effortless, charming small talk with strangers, and the rest of us just try to muddle along as best we can. However, most people have, at some point, found themselves struggling to maintain a more than usually stilted exchange with someone whose conversation and demeanour just seem a bit . . . awkward. It struck me that I’d never given much thought as to whether there might be a reason for this, something that helped to explain that person’s awkwardness. Might there perhaps be something in their background or childhood experiences, some life event that had helped to shape them in this particular way?

I realized that I wanted to tell a story about someone like this, or, rather, someone who’d ended up like this, living a small life. A lonely person, a slightly awkward person, and someone in whom loneliness and social awkwardness had become entwined and self-perpetuating. I wanted to tell the story of how this had happened to her, and of what happened to her next, and this became the story of Eleanor Oliphant.
Many of Eleanor’s coworkers know nothing about her. Some of this can be contributed to her reluctance to interact with others, but it largely has to do with her unusual appearance and odd personality. Why do you think we are so hesitant to accept the “other”?
That’s a good question, and a very difficult one. In Eleanor’s specific case, I think that her colleagues, faced with what appears to be extreme and perhaps rather misplaced self-confidence, coupled with an inability to fit in socially and a complete lack of interest in attempting to do so, find her to be quite challenging, and possibly even a slightly threatening character. Of course, the reader can see the difference between who Eleanor really is and how she might appear to others, but unfortunately most of the people she encounters don’t have access to the full picture—her thoughts and feelings and experiences—which could help them understand why she seems to behave in particular, and sometimes quite irritating, ways.
In the beginning of the story, Eleanor falls in love with a local musician, Johnnie. She believes he is her soulmate, even though they haven’t actually met. Her relationship with him is completely one-sided, and exists solely online. Romantic idealism isn’t a new concept, but do you think that social media gives it a new platform?

When I was writing about Eleanor and Johnnie, I began thinking about what he might reveal about himself online, either knowingly or, perhaps more interestingly, unknowingly—the tiny background details in photographs, for example. From following Johnnie’s various and frequent social media posts, Eleanor very quickly forms a completely false sense of intimacy with him— a person she’s never met—because she’s able to see where he goes and who he spends time with, and in a matter of days, she comes to know a tremendous amount about his life. This provides a lot of narrative possibilities in a compressed time period, which is very useful for a writer.
Eleanor is so literal but so funny. Though there’s plenty of darkness in her story, she never fails to make us laugh. How did you come up with Eleanor’s inimitable voice?
I’m absolutely delighted to hear that she’s making people laugh! Darker aspects of the story aside, the character of Eleanor Oliphant was so much fun to write, partly because she has no filters and very little self-awareness, and so she often ends up saying things out loud that most of us wouldn’t ever dream of saying. Eleanor is also largely unaware of social conventions, or, when she is aware of them, pays them no heed. Because of all these factors, she looks at other people and at the world—even the most mundane, routine situations and encounters— from a very particular point of view. She’s not much influenced by preconceived ideas or social pressures to conform, and trying to create a character who spoke with that particular voice and had that particular view of the world was such an enjoyable challenge.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is your first novel, yet it was already on the shortlist for the Lucy Cavendish Prize in the UK. How long did it take you to write this novel, and how did you feel when you found out it would be published?

It took me around two years to write it—I had a full-time job, so I was writing before or after work, or on weekends when I could. I was completely thrilled when I found out it was going to be published—even now, I’m still pinching myself.
What is it about the other characters—Raymond, Sam—that finally get Eleanor to open up her life to others?

I think it’s partly a question of timing—when we first meet Eleanor, she has reached a point where something has to give, and these characters come along at exactly the right time in her life. I think it’s also that they’re very nonjudgmental; they take Eleanor as they find her, with all her quirks and idiosyncrasies. They’re happy to let her be herself, and, at the same time, are gently trying to help her be the best, happiest version of herself, without ever thinking or implying that what she is at the moment is anything other than completely fine. That’s an important aspect of helping to build her trust, I think. The other thing, perhaps the most important thing, is that they are kind, and their kindness works its own particular magic.
If there’s one piece of advice you would give to Eleanor, what would it be?

I suppose if I had to suggest anything to Eleanor, it would be that she should keep trying to open up. It’s great that she’s self-sufficient and confident in her abilities, but other people have so much to offer, and she’s been missing out on this. The other thing is that while it’s wonderful to receive help when you need it, it’s also a lovely feeling to be able to give it, knowing that you’ve been useful or made a difference in someone’s life, however small. If Eleanor opened up more and, in so doing, let people in, she’d also be giving them the gift of helping her— it’s a positive, virtuous circle.
What are you working on now?

I don’t want to say too much about it at this early stage, but it’s a novel that moves between the 1940s and the present day, with a male protagonist and a female protagonist who are related to each other, and it’s set in both London and Scotland. I’ve loved spending time with Eleanor in her world, but I’m really enjoying writing something very different and exploring different voices right now.

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