I keep saying that I don't like contemporary. That I am a fantasy-mystery kind of girl only. But this summer, I have been reading a lot of contemporaries. So that statement is totally a lie now.
Especially, now that a women fiction contemporary has just made my all-time-favorites-list.
To understand a prickly pear you must become a prickly pear.
Or be one already.
I have been told that I am prickly, but Eleanor is prickly x100. But she has very good reasons (whether I do not).
Before I get into the review I just want to say that this book was bloody brilliant. It had heart. It was full of life, and emotions. And it was moving.
"I took one of my hands in the other, tried to imagine what it would feel like if it was another person's hand holding mine. There have been times where I felt that I might die of loneliness."
Eleanor Oliphant doesn't feel fictional. She feels real. Like a co-worker that won't talk to you, or like a neighbor that you never see. But real, nonetheless.
After I finished the book I was devastated - I didn't want Eleanor to be gone from my life yet. I felt as if I've came to know her over those 325 pages. I wished I could have kept reading for at least 325 more.
“I simply didn't know how to make things better. I could not solve the puzzle of me.”
I have not been very happy lately. Call it summer rainy-days-blues, or a mild depression, or a "I'm nearing my 30s crisis". I don't know. But I wasn't all sunshine and happiness.
Neither was this novel. And you know what? Turns out that it was exactly what I needed. I just needed some pain to come at me from the pages, to live somebody else's sorrow and fears. Feel somebody else's depression, to cure whatever sadness I had. It doesn't make any sense, but it worked.
It was at times scary how much I could relate to Eleanor's principles and views on the world.
“I find lateness exceptionally rude; it’s so disrespectful, implying unambiguously that you consider yourself and your own time to be so much more valuable than the other person’s.”
At first, you spend some good chunk of the book wondering if Eleanor is just a nut-case, which she herself never denies. But the more you read the more you realize that her views make such good sense. They are clear, concise and no-nonsense.
She questions why women should wear so much make-up to try and look better. She questions why when people ask you "how are you" they don't actually care for an answer. She questions why people lie, and pretend just to be liked. Eleanor questions everything that is wrong with modern society. And damn, she is so right!
“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn't spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”
She asks those questions with brutal naivety because she doesn't know any better. Because she was never taught how to behave in society. But we know better. We know, and yet we behave in most ridiculous ways.
Eleanor Oliphant might seem rude, delusional, naive and basically any word you wish to insert theat is the opposite of normal. But give her a chance. If her prickliness rubs you the wrong way - still, give her a chance. If you find her love-crush silly - give it time. Everything will be explained in time.
"And if a woman who's wholly alone occasionally talks to a pot plant, is she certifiable? I think that it is perfectly normal to talk to oneself occasionally. It's not as though I'm expecting a reply."
Every page is like a little punch.
To the gut.
To the heart.
To the soul.
“Some people, weak people, fear solitude. What they fail to understand is that there’s something very liberating about it; once you realize that you don’t need anyone, you can take care of yourself. That’s the thing: it’s best just to take care of yourself.”
I can see this novel being better received by female population, as, well it is women fiction to begin with, and it has a lot of things that male species might find absurd. Or just plain foreign.
The importance of a haircut. The awkward talks with a nail technician. The struggle of finding good shoes. Bikini wax.
We follow Eleanor as she tries to navigate in all of those areas, so alien to her. It's endearing. It's hilarious. And it's like watching Bambi learn how to walk.
“My hair was mousy brown, parted in the center, straight and not particularly thick. Human hair, doing what human hair does: growing on my head.”
This turned out to be my favorite read of the summer (so far). And an all-time favorite of the year (in this genre).
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine reads like a diary. But very well written. It's like gazing into somebody's life without fear of intrusion. It's a journey of a woman into a woman. Into herself. Her past and her future.
And it's so fantastically heartbreaking and healing at the same time.