Young and Lonely: Gail Honeyman’s ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’

A little late I know, I’m sorry – but I’m back with March’s Read of the month!

When deciding specifically what to include for this month, I knew it had to be Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. While March was a big one for women (with International Womens’ Day and Mothers’ Day), I didn’t actually pick this book because Honeyman is a female writer. Really, it’s because I have seen this book absolutely everywhere over the last month. It was all over the ‘Twitterverse’, the London tube, GoodReads, honestly everywhere – even my housemate was talking about it! It was like it was haunting me.

So, in short, I caved, bought it and here I am.


Image from BookRiot

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the debut novel of Glasgow based Gail Honeyman. The text follows the eponymous character Eleanor Oliphant who leads a simple and somewhat limited life working 9-5 in the same job she’s had since she left university, living in the same flat, and also spending her weekends the same way too: drinking a litre of vodka and eating pizzas from Tesco Express.

While for some of us this may sound like a dream weekend, the fact is that, aside from her mother (who we are told very little about), Eleanor is almost completely alone.

“These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way.” – p.227

In an interview with Foyles, Honeyman said that when writing the novel she was inspired by an article she read interviewing a young woman who “would leave work on a Friday night and wouldn’t talk to anyone again until Monday morning”:

“When I thought more about it, I realised that there were plenty of potential routes to a young person finding themselves in those circumstances, through no fault of their own, and how hard it can be, at any age, to forge meaningful connections.” –Gail Honeyman

While loneliness is felt by everyone to some degree at various points in their life, young adults are often looked over and, while it may not have been completely intentional, for me Honeyman’s text really pushes this forward in Eleanor and I think this in particular is why the text has resonated with so many young people since it’s publication only last April.

Personally, it did take me a little bit of time to get into the novel, but I think that’s more because it’s the sort of book I’m not used to reading. Reflecting on my reading experience now, I am definitely one of those it has touched.


Gail Honeyman herself. Image from Irish Times

I found Eleanor a lovable and engaging character, and you really sympathise and connect with her as you follow her journey and that’s what hooks you. Her journey is a difficult one, and heartbreaking at times to read, but she is not a victim.

You really want her to succeed, to flourish. She makes you want to hug everyone around you and tell them everything is going to be ok. I love the complexity of her character and that by focusing on Eleanor, her thoughts and her processes, Honeyman gives readers the opportunity for that connection between text and reader to develop, questions to be raised and discussions to be opened. In all, it’s perfect if you’re looking for something to make you think as well as to lift your spirits.

Thought-provoking, unusual, funny – definitely a must read.

It’s even already been snapped up to be produced as a film by Reese Witherspoon’s  film company Hello Sunshine! I can’t wait!


Have you got your hands on it yet? What did you think? Let me know!



Featured image from Eventbrite

3 thoughts on “Young and Lonely: Gail Honeyman’s ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’

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