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June book club - Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

(98 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 31-May-17 11:41:39

Winners of this much talked about debut novel - more details here - should be receiving their copies shortly. If you do get one, don't forget to leave your comments and questions for author Gail Honeyman on this thread by the end of the month

welshmaiden Tue 11-Jul-17 22:36:29

loved reading this book! The autistic mindset was so well described and the reaction from the people around Eleanor was so typical that I laughed out loud on several occasions. Having worked with autistic children and adults I could definitely see the scenarios as they came into the story.
I also had 2 copies and will donate my second copy to my friend who has an autistic son. I shall keep the other to read again!

Buddie Wed 12-Jul-17 13:09:18

I really enjoyed this book finding it difficult to put down. The details of Eleanor’s backstory were revealed at just the right moment to move the story on and leave the reader speculating as to the whole truth. Eleanor herself had such a distinctive voice yet felt herself to be a background figure in the scheme of things. Raymond, with his calm, measured approach to life, was the ideal foil for the ups and downs of Eleanor’s story. As it unfolded I often felt I knew what might happen next yet time and again I was proved wrong and the ending was a complete surprise and yet at no time did I feel cheated or deceived. This was purely clever plotting.
What happens next? I think the story has climaxed so sadly I don’t think a sequel will be the answer but I would love to be proved wrong. I do hope to read more by this author, whatever she chooses to write about next.
As the backstory was so complex I should like to ask in how much detail Gail had laid this out in advance or did the story evolve with the characters as she went along?

Parsleywin Sun 16-Jul-17 21:48:28

I too found this an easy yet thought provoking read, which is quite a rare combination. I feel Gail had a very sympathetic approach to her characters, making clear their differences from other people without being cruel or condescending. I didn't predict the ending at all! Like many others I am looking forward to reading more by the talented Gail Honeyman.

NanSue Mon 17-Jul-17 20:40:38

Belated thanks for my copy.
I really didn't want this book to end. A great easy but all consuming read.
Clever plot and very detailed. Has it been left open for a follow up? I do hope so!

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 26-Jul-17 17:12:07

I will be sending the questions to Gail shortly and will pop the answers up when we get them. Delighted that everyone enjoyed the book so much. When I read it - a while ago - I couldn't wait to snap it up for our book club. I too look forward to more from Gail

middleagespread Thu 27-Jul-17 11:07:28

My book arrived late but it still deserves a review so here goes. I was absolutely entranced by it. Eleanor certainly grows on you as the story develops and her life, which starts out so empty, gradually evolves into a,dare I say it, almost normal lifestyle. Difficult issues are tackled compassionately and there is still room for laughter. Eleanor's naiveness proves a touching trait and her experiences with others around her leave her fragile and lonely. Her friend, her only friend, is an important person in the healing process and I liked him very much. Towards the end I read more slowly, unwilling to face the conclusion. I felt maybe it would let me down, but it didn't. Curiously uplifting and moving. A must read book.

GailHoneyman Mon 04-Sep-17 12:51:17


'Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans' and, eventually and thankfully so, in Eleanor's case, as it provides her escape and release. Gail - what, if anything in particular, triggered the storyline? Was it based loosely on a newspaper article you'd read or just a randomly formulated idea?

Yes, it started with a newspaper article I read about loneliness a few years ago; mostly, when the topic is discussed in the media, it’s in the context of older people – which is clearly a very important issue – but, somewhat unusually, this article included an interview with a woman in her 20s who said that when she left work on Friday night, she often wouldn’t speak to another human being until she went back there on Monday morning. This really struck me, and I began to think about how and why a young woman might find herself in those circumstances. From that starting point, the character of Eleanor Oliphant and her story slowly began to emerge.

GailHoneyman Mon 04-Sep-17 12:52:21


Finished this and thoroughly enjoyed both the pathos and the smiles. My favourite quotation is this I purchased it in a charity shop some years ago, and it has a photograph of a moon-faced man. He is wearing a brown leather blouson. Along the top, in strange yellow font, it says ‘Top Gear’. I don’t profess to understand this mug. It holds the perfect amount of vodka, however, thereby obviating the need for frequent refills That had me nearly falling off the sofa!!
Question for Gail I celebrated with Eleanor as she made her journey; have you another such character awaiting us....(please!)

I’m delighted to hear that you enjoyed Eleanor’s story – thank you! I’m working on a new book at the moment – it’s very different, with a male and a female narrator. I really hope you’ll enjoy it!

GailHoneyman Mon 04-Sep-17 12:53:22


I have just finished reading this touching book and absolutely loved it!

Eleanor was such a sad and damaged character in many ways but indomitable and funny too and I loved Raymond and the way she began to flower under his caring friendship. I am hoping against hope that the author, Gail Honeyman, is busy writing a sequel to this very moving story.

Please do tell us Gail - is there a happy ending for them and are you writing part 2 of their story? (Hope so!)

When we leave Eleanor, she’s come as far as she realistically could have over the course of the narrative, I think, given where she started from. She’s not quite ready for a relationship, but she’s in a much happier place; she’s ready to contemplate the possibility of one in the not too distant future, and has an understanding of what a happy, healthy relationship might entail. For her character, that’s huge progress, I think. I’ll leave it to readers to imagine what might happen next!

GailHoneyman Mon 04-Sep-17 12:54:16


Excellent read, not my usual style but very interesting and absorbing. Did Gail have personal experience of Eleanor's problems?

Thank you, I’m thrilled to hear that you enjoyed it! It’s a work of fiction and, as such, not based directly on personal experience.

GailHoneyman Mon 04-Sep-17 12:54:57


As others have already said, on one level this is an easy read and I completed it in two sittings. On another level though, this debut novel manages successfully to combine some laugh out loud moments with some deeply shocking ones, from childhood neglect, physical cruelty and emotional abuse to repressed memories and survivor guilt. “Fire tests gold...and adversity tests the brave.”
On a personal level, I found that I could immediately associate with Eleanor. I have a niece with autism and felt great sympathy with how Eleanor sees the world in simple black and white terms. I laughed at how she thought WE were the rude, weird, anti social ones, not her. There is so much humour and compassion in the book and I loved that, as Eleanor’s social connections grew, so did her confidence and her appreciation of what it is to be loved and to offer love and kindness in return. I particularly enjoyed her unfurling relationship with Raymond. This is such a genuinely innocent and touching friendship and I loved the subtle little moments which depict beautifully Eleanor's emerging feelings of connection to him. "Bad Days" contains some shocking and difficult scenes which I thought were superbly written, with brutal honesty and raw emotion. The prospect of happiness for Eleanor at the end left me feeling very hopeful for her future.
Well done to Gail Honeyman. This book will stay with me for a long time and I can't wait for more from this author.
My question for Gail is: What’s next? Any prospects for a film? And/or a follow on book? I’d love to see what life does in fact have in store for Eleanor.

I’m working on a new book at the moment, something completely different. In the meantime, the film rights to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine have been optioned; it’s very early days in the process, but I’m really excited to see what develops.

GailHoneyman Mon 04-Sep-17 12:56:12


I started off being very unsure about this book, but the story drew me in and by the end I was eager to know how it was going to work out for Eleanor. It is a really fine first novel! I loved the references to McDonald's and Top Gear ( both of which made me laugh!) The story reminded me how important it is not to take people at face value or make assumptions. The ending was very satisfying ( some people will still be reading so I won't spoil it.) I would like to ask Gail if she started with an outline of the whole story, and then filled it in, or did she start with no clear idea of what the end would be? One of the best GN books I have read ( and I am still not sure what to do with my extra copy!smile)

That’s a great question! I didn’t plan the novel in detail; when I started writing, all I knew was the piece of information about her mother that’s revealed at the end, but I had no idea how I would get to that point!

GailHoneyman Mon 04-Sep-17 12:57:13


Hi Gail,
I really really loved the book. I once knew someone similar to Eleanor, sadly she is no longer with us, but she had a difficult life and although didn't have all the finely honed social skills, just like Eleanor, she grabbed any fragment of friendship or kindness as though it was a handsome golden thing.
I think maybe you knew or came in contact with an 'Eleanor' ? If not then your grasp of how such a person behaves was inspired and inspiring. I loved Raymond and his Mum, you didn't make him a freak, he had mates etc but you didn't make him a knight either which would have made him unbelievable.I totally believed in your characters, and without spoiling the book for anyone that has yet to finish it...I loved your little twist that all was not as we thought with 'Mummy' !!
Well done Gail, a great book, I hope you write something else soon, I don't know if you want to write more about Eleanor, I need her and Raymond to settle a while !
ps. Gransnet, I received an extra copy but have given it away hope this is ok.Hopefully more people will discover Gail's writing !

The character of Eleanor isn’t based on a real person, and sadly I’ve never met anyone exactly like her in real life. That said, I think there are a lot of Eleanors (and Raymonds) in the world, once you start looking for them.

GailHoneyman Mon 04-Sep-17 12:58:09


Thank you, Gail Honeyman for a thought-provoking & entertaining read.
I recommend "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" for its quirky heroine who slowly begins to shine through the pages. The cleverly-woven storyline & neat supporting characters draws the reader into her life with touches of sadness & glorious, laugh-out-loud flashes of Eleanor's often unintentional wrestlings with day-to-day life. What a back story & what a deft twist for the reader at the end. Bravo! smile

My question for Gail is: Were there difficulties in finding the correct places in the narrative to insert the hints of what had happened in Eleanor's life?

Incidentally GN, my 2nd (uncut) copy of the book went to my local library, who received it with thanks.

Part of the challenge and the pleasure of writing the book was trying to create a sense of narrative tension, dropping hints and offering brief glimpses into Eleanor’s past in an attempt to ensure that there was just enough at each stage in the story to pique the reader’s interest. I really enjoyed working on those aspects of the novel.

GailHoneyman Mon 04-Sep-17 12:58:58


Oi, heatherjw, my son's an IT bod, less of the stereotyping! grin Though to be fair, from long experience of computer problems, I admit you do have a point!

I loved this book, and it seems the GN feeling's unanimous. I've just finished it, and I'm really going to miss Eleanor and Raymond, for me both convincing characters that I've enjoyed rooting for. In my own imagination they already have their happy ending, and I can't see a sequel coming out, but I'm eagerly looking forward to whatever this very talented author comes up with next. It's not often you find a book that tugs so hard at the heartstrings and makes you laugh out loud in equal measure.

My reading group has now chosen this as their next book, and I'm sure they'll all love it, which isn't often the case.

If it's not too personal I'd like to ask the author why, with such an obvious talent for writing, it's taken so long for her to publish her debut novel?

That’s an interesting question! I always wanted to write, having enjoyed creative writing at school. It’s a bit of a cliché, but my looming 40th birthday was the catalyst that finally prompted me to give it a go.

GailHoneyman Mon 04-Sep-17 12:59:54


I have just finished reading this brilliant book and have really enjoyed it.All the characters are so well depicted especially Eleanor with her problems of social interaction added to those of her horrendous childhood.Why did you choose Oliphant as her new surname ?It would seem that the name could lend itself to mockery with its association to a certain large animal.
I also very much liked Maria Temple who was gentle and seemed to ask all the right questions. How close do you feel to either her or Eleanor ?
I very much look forward to reading future novels from you Gail

I wish I could remember how I came up with the name! It just seemed to ‘fit’ her character and I liked the rhythm of it, the number of syllables. Its uniqueness also felt right – she’s an unusual character, who suits an unusual name.

GailHoneyman Mon 04-Sep-17 13:01:32

To answer Buddie's question:

Thank you! As I mentioned in an earlier answer, I didn’t plan out the story before I started; all I knew was the ending, and I hugely enjoyed the process of writing my way towards that point.

Leemaria Sat 16-Sep-17 08:24:42

Hi all, new to Gransnet - could you let me know how the book club works? Thank you.

Mapleleaf Sat 16-Sep-17 15:30:33

Hello Leemaria and welcome to GN.
For the book club, keep a look out in competitions and also this books/book club one for the announcement of the latest months book choice, or your newsletter if you've signed up for one, then you can click on the link for information about the book to see if it interests you then fill in the online form if you would like the book. It's then the luck of the draw - you may receive a copy, you may not. If you do, once you have read it GN like you to post a review and also pose a question ( if you have one) for the author. Some time later the author usually tries to answer as many questions as they can. Hope this helps. ?

gillybob Wed 20-Sep-17 07:59:13

My book arrived late too (I think it had been on a trip around the town before it reached me) and so I was late starting it. I just wanted to say that I absolutely loved this book. It was so beautifully well written. I could picture the characters easily and felt that I knew Eleanor and Raymond personally. I did like the way you learned a little bit about Eleanor's past every so often and I enjoyed (we'll probably not the right word) putting it all together. Some of Eleanor's (unintentially funny) comments made me laugh out loud and her little quirks (asking for the money when she bought a drink etc.) made me cringe too. This book was very different to many I have read lately and I just wanted to say it has gone straight
To the top of my personal book charts for 2017. Thank you so much.

gillybob Thu 21-Sep-17 15:44:22

Meant to add that I would love to read a sequel and think it would make a great film .

JaneLewis1 Sun 29-Oct-17 07:56:59

What a great book!!! I think it is very cleverly written, as you gradually realise Eleanor’s autistic character, and the way that she was damaged in childhood by a cruel mother whose hurtful taunts and put-downs are still very real to Eleanor aged 30.

Depression and autism are becoming more understood, a book like this is very helpful.

Also, the sessions with the therapist are very interesting in the way that Ekeanor’s Story is gradually revealed, and you can see it is not too upsetting for Eleanor. This would give courage to someone who wants to visit a therapist, and they might be feeling very unsure.

And well done to the Internet!!! I mean that it was not too difficult for Raymond to find relevant newspaper articles about how Eleanor became scarred (In more ways than one) . I do appreciate the gain in knowledge that we have from the Internet, and how this improves our knowledge and understanding. At work, when chatting, we often look up things on Google so that we all know what people are talking about, such as holiday destinations , pop songs from our youth or books and authors , and...., and....., and technical terms, to prevent the ‘it is, it isn’t, ´ arguments. I am digressing, but I did like the way that the author had the characters researching the Internet.

I appreciated all the comments posted here. A great read, with a lot in the book