‘I suppose one of the reasons we’re all able to continue to exist for our allotted span in this green and blue vale of tears is that there is always, however remote it might seem, the possibility of change.’
We tend to walk through life under the impression that most of us humans think and feel the same or similar things. Gail Honeyman has challenged that. She’s challenged that by introducing us to Eleanor Oliphant. Ms. Oliphant, to you. For now.
I had a Kindle copy of this novel, meaning instant access to the little highlight feature, without scribbling (ugh) in an actual book on actual paper. By page 383, I had lost count of the amount of highlighted passages. I was highlighting so much because, as a sort-of writer myself, I was in awe of Honeyman’s manipulation of language. How it flowed and how it sounded in my head. She writes exactly how I aspire to write. But not only was she giving me little pearls of beautiful lexis, she was also providing Eleanor with no voice I’d ever heard before. The personality-type of the protagonist became so familiar and so ‘normal’, yet unique to me, that I’ve become that little less judgemental of other people. And if that’s the aim Gail Honeyman had in mind, she certainly succeeded in my case.
She’s made it so that it’s hard not to feel sorry for Eleanor. She’s made it so we’re all a little bit more hyper-aware of peoples’ pasts, presents and futures, and how one’s childhood especially, can still eat away at a fully grown thirty year old.
We’ve all heard the term ‘snowflake’, I’m sure. Admittedly, I still, sometimes, think that the PC Brigade is sucking the fun away a little and actually censoring us in a sense (more of that in another blog, another time). But none of this has removed the need for us to just be kind to one another. Honeyman reminds us of this, through Eleanor’s ordeals. I think there are elements of Eleanor’s character that everyone can relate to, and that’s what makes her story all the more heartbreaking.
‘You can’t protect other people, however hard you try. You try, and you fail, and your world collapses around you, burns down to ashes.’
The catalyst to Eleanor’s heartbreaking story was arson, started by someone who should have been her sole protector. Honeyman cleverly intertwines this protector throughout the narrative – throws them in as Eleanor’s source of despair, right up until the end. This complicated relationship would no doubt ‘talk’ to every single one of us.
Personally, I was rooting for a romantic relationship between Eleanor and Raymond – her work colleague, turned friend, turned lifesaver (quite literally). But I think this is what made Honeyman’s narrative all the more beautiful: that the one thing the protagonist was seeking at the beginning in the pursuit of happiness, was the one thing she didn’t necessarily need in order to heal and move on. Saying that, I’m still hoping in the parallel universe of literature that they are, somewhere, together: Glen in tow.
‘You can make anything happen, anything at all, inside a daydream.’
Please, if this ever becomes a film or a series, read the book first. I’m not sure Gail Honeyman’s use of language will ever translate properly onto the screen. I think one of the significant elements is that a different version of Eleanor Oliphant will exist in everyone’s mind whom she touches: I only wish I could have my version of Eleanor as a friend.
‘Why is it that client-facing jobs hold such allure for misanthropes? Its a conundrum.’
‘I know she’s only a cat. But it’s still love; animals, people. It’s unconditional, and it’s both the easiest and hardest thing in the world.’