Gail Honeyman on Eleanor Oliphant, Loneliness, and Unique Characters


If you find yourself lucky enough to delve into the novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, you will be pleasantly surprised with every turn of the page. While this novel is utterly delightful and laugh out loud funny, the socially awkward titular character has a dark past that she would rather not think about. Honeyman brings her narrator to life in beautiful technicolor throughout her novel, gaining the debut novelist comparisons to the iconic Jane Austen

Who is Eleanor Oliphant, you ask? Eleanor is a thirty year old woman living alone in Glasgow, Scotland struggling with an all-encompassing loneliness.  When she leaves work on Friday, she doesn't have contact with anybody else until she returns to the office on Monday morning. She spends her free time drinking vodka and watching educational television programs instead. Everything changes for Eleanor, though, when she happens to save an elderly man named Sammy with her co-worker Raymond. As Eleanor and Raymond cultivate a deep friendship, Eleanor is forced to question her solitary lifestyle and confront the skeletons in her closet. 


During Honeyman's appearance on The Public Library with Helen Little, she discussed the inspiration behind Eleanor's unique character. "When loneliness is discussed in the media, it's generally in the context of older people," Honeyman explained. "[I read an article that] interviewed a young woman who was in her late 20's and she said she had an apartment and a professional job, but she said often she'd leave work on Friday evening and wouldn't talk to another human being until Monday morning. I was really struck by that." 

Despite Eleanor's struggle with loneliness, she remains unapologetically herself throughout the story. One of the many delights of this novel is Eleanor's hilarious narration of her everyday life. From her first bikini wax to deciding what sort of present she should bring to a birthday party, Eleanor's singular voice will have readers clutching their side from laughter. 

If you haven't had the chance to read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine....what are you waiting for? This novel is the perfect selection for your monthly book club or to pack for the beach. One thing is certain: you will be thinking about Eleanor Oliphant long after you close this book. 

Helen Little

Helen Little

Listen to Helen Little weekdays from 9:30am-3:00pm and tune in to her Public Library Podcast on the iHeartRadio App! Read more


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