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Gail Honeyman: Born in central Scotland to a mother who worked as a civil servant and a father in science, Honeyman was a voracious reader in her childhood.
She studied French language and literature at Glasgow University, before continuing her education at the University of Oxford for a postgraduate course in French poetry. However, she decided that an academic career was not for her and started a string of "backroom jobs", first as a civil servant in economic development and then as an administrator at Glasgow University.
While working as an administrator, Honeyman enrolled in a Faber Academy writing course, submitting the first three chapters of what would become Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine to a competition for unpublished fiction by female writers. The novel, published in 2017, went on to earn numerous awards and wide critical acclaim.(r.1)
“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is a thought-provoking, fictional read that touches the heart of the reader with its underlying darkness that is a reminder of the “skeletons in the closest” that many people carry but do not share.
Following on from a traumatic childhood and years in foster care, Eleanor Oliphant is now a 30-year-old woman, working in an office in Glasgow, drinking vodka by the bottle and merely existing. With great humour, Honeyman captures the reader’s attention from the first few pages as she takes us through a story of heartache, hatred and happiness.
The success of this book depends largely on the female protagonist that Honeyman creates in Eleanor. From the onset, the reader knows that Eleanor is quirky, somewhat odd, but as time goes on and other characters are introduced, we learn of the life events that have shaped Eleanor’s personality.
One such character that is important in the development of Eleanor is Raymond, the male protagonist of the story. Equally as quirky as Eleanor but much less socially awkward, Raymond is a decent and kind-hearted man. He enters Eleanor’s world as a work colleague from the IT department but soon becomes indispensable in her life, ultimately saving her life. The friendship that the author creates between these two characters gives the reader that “feel good feeling” as Raymond relentlessly works to break down the barriers that Eleanor has built in response to her past and the troublesome relationship that exists with her mother.
We judge people based on the clothes they wear, their extra-curricular activities, their marital status. Why? I can’t even answer that myself. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, as well as being an enjoyable read, is a book with a lesson; don’t judge a person based on what you can see.(r.2)
Highlights vs self- reflection:
1.p.454: In my eagerness to change, to connect with someone, I’d focused on the wrong thing, the wrong person. On the charge of being a catastrophic disaster, a failed human being, I was starting to find myself, with Maria’s help, not guilty.
1.p.231: It’s like an aerie where a beautiful bird would nest.
2.p.165: I was used to waiting, and life has taught me to be a very patient person.
3.p.164: small deeds could elicit such genuine, generous responses. I felt a little glow inside-not a blaze, more like a small, steady candle.
4.p.520: I’d tried to cope alone for far too long, and it hadn’t done me any good at all. Sometimes you simply needed someone kind to sit with you while you dealt with things.
5.p.485: You are not your mother, are you, Eleanor? You are a completely separate person, an independent person, making your own choices.
6.p.431: She lived alone, had a job, her own business even. She certainly seemed to have a life, not just an existence. She seemed happy. It must be possible, then.
7.p.269:You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.
8.p.371: I contributed nothing to the world, absolutely nothing, and I took nothing from it either. When I ceased to exist, it would make no material difference to anyone.
9.p.136: In my recent experience, the perfect man appears when yhou’re least expecting it.
10. “It often feels as if I’m not here, that I’m a figment of my own imagination. There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock.”
1.Eleanor is not her true name at all. It’s a new identity for her to face the new world.
2.At the, Eleanor ‘s house is in arson by her mom, her father, sister is dead, she is saved but need to stay by the foster placement and under the medication of depression. Every time, when something not work out right, the relevant will call to the social workers, she needs to move out and transfer to another foster placement. That’s why it’s hard for her to have close friend, until she works as the financial administration assistance at the Bob’s. She met her colleague, Raymond, they save Sammy by accident and became close friends to Sammy’s family. One day, after the concert, Eleanor got drunk and didn’t go to work for three days. Raymond came over and helped her go through, not like others, just call the social workers. His attitude changes Enleanor’s world. “The best empathy is the best cureall”
3. Eleanor developed a crush on the musician, she starts an empty-chair exercise by Dr. Temple. Who let Eleanor understand each one is separate. She is not the scapegoat for her mom and sister, she has done a great job as a child.
4.Laura has a life not an existence like Eleanor.
5. Raymon’s mom sent a cat to Eleanor, from taking care of the cat, Eleanor found the meaning of life, not focus on the wrong thing, wrong person, but the right thing and right person. All the help gives Eleanor the power to face her past and tell her mean mom to face the truth of arson’s consequences. Eleanor is back to work again and all her colleagues welcome her with sweet greeting card.
6.Raymon helps her to untie the past, her mom and sister all passed away during the fire, what she tries to communicate is the dark shadow. She accept it and hug Raymom.
7.Real love can awaken your soul.
8. from saving Sammy’s life, Eleanor save her own life,too
9.We are nothing, but while we helping others, it makes us be something, a little candle to warm yourself and others.
10.” A community full of light, will attract those lost in the dark.”
Eleanor Liophant by Lydia:
The novel focuses on 29-year-old Eleanor Oliphant, a social misfit with a traumatic past who becomes enamoured of a singer, whom she believes she is destined to be with. It deals with themes of isolation and loneliness, and depicts Eleanors transformation journey towards a fuller understanding of self and life.
Eleanor Oliphant, the novels protagonist and narrator, lives in Glasgow and works as a finance clerk for a graphic design company. She is 29 at the novels outset. She is academically intelligent, with a degree in Classics and high standards of literacy. Every day on her lunch break she completes the Daily Telegraph crossword.
She is socially awkward and leads a solitary lifestyle. She has no friends or social contacts, and every weekend consumes two bottles of vodka. She takes no interest in her appearance, not having a haircut since she was 13.
Not considering that she has a problem, Eleanor repeatedly describes herself as "absolutely fine", and even when obvious moments of awkwardness arise in her interactions with others, she tends to blame the other persons "underdeveloped social skills". Her work colleagues regard her as a bit of a joke, and refer to her as "Wacko Jacko" or "Harry Potter"; she regards them as "shirkers and idiots".
Clues gradually emerge to a troubled past. Eleanor has a badly scarred face; knows nothing about her father; spent much of her childhood in foster care and childrens homes; and, as a student, spent two years living with an abusive boyfriend who regularly beat her. Twice yearly she receives a routine visit from a social worker to monitor her progress. Her mother now appears to be confined to an unidentified institution: she phones Eleanor for a 15-minute conversation on Wednesday evenings. It is clear that Eleanors mother is both vindictive and manipulative.
Several developments advance the narrative. Eleanor develops a crush on Johnnie Lomond, lead singer in a local band, having won tickets to a concert in a raffle. She becomes convinced that he is the "love of [her] life" and "husband material". She starts to follow his Twitter feed, discovers where he lives, and visits his building. In anticipation of meeting him, she begins an unprecedented regime of personal grooming: she has a bikini wax, and later a manicure and haircut, buys new clothes, and visits a Bobbi Brown beauty store for makeup advice.
On leaving work one day with a new colleague, Raymond Gibbons, they witness an elderly man, Sammy Thom, collapse in the street. At Raymonds insistence, they call an ambulance, and help save his life. They are subsequently drawn into a series of encounters with Sammy and his grateful family, and in the process an embryonic friendship grows between Eleanor and Raymond.
Eleanor attends another long-anticipated concert by Johnnie Lomond, certain that this is the moment at which they will meet, and the pieces of her life will start to fall into place. Instead, she finds that she is hidden in the crowd, and that Johnnie is unaware of her presence. When, to fill a gap in the performance, he moons the audience, she realises that he is not the refined soul-mate she had imagined. A dry ice stage effect stirs disturbing recollections of a traumatic fire in her past. She returns to her flat in despair, retreating into an intense three-day drinking binge and assembling materials for a suicide attempt – a hoard of painkillers; a bread knife; and a bottle of drain cleaner.
Eleanor is found by Raymond, sent by their boss to investigate her absence from work. He cleans her up, puts her on the road to recovery, and continues to visit regularly over the following days. He even brings her an abandoned cat for company, which Eleanor appreciates. At his urging, she visits her GP, who refers her to a mental health counsellor. She eventually returns to work, where she is warmly greeted. Gradually, with the help of both the counsellor and Raymond, her full childhood story emerges, including details that she had suppressed. When she was 10, her mother had started a house fire with the intention of killing both Eleanor and her four-year-old sister, Marianne. Although Eleanor survived, her mother and Marianne died. The weekly phone conversations with her mother have been entirely in Eleanors imagination.
The novel deals with themes of loneliness, prejudice, trauma recovery, small acts of kindness, and friendship. It is written from the viewpoint of an unreliable narrator, though not one motivated by malice or a desire to deceive – as is often the case – but rather as a reflection of the characters lack of self-awareness.
Humour is used to lighten and contrast with the darker themes. The novel has been identified as a notable example of "up lit", referring to uplifting literature which features stories of kindness, compassion, and hope. It has also been credited with raising the popularity of uplifting literature among the public, as since its publication a marked rise has been observed in the number of up lit novels making best-seller lists.
Q & A.
1. Eleanor felt sorry for beautiful people because beauty is “ephemeral, already slipping away. That must be difficult.” How is this ironic, and possibly reflective of how beautiful people probably saw her?
“Life sparkled towards me through the drops of rain on glass, shimmered fragrantly above the fug of wet clothes and damp feet.” All the beautiful things are temporary, only the personality last forever.
“I feel sorry for beautiful people. Beauty, from the moment you possess it, is already slipping away, ephemeral. That must be difficult. Always having to prove that there’s more to you, wanting people to see beneath the surface, to be loved for yourself, and not your stunning body, sparkling eyes or thick, lustrous hair.”
2. Raymond was fond of athletic footwear even at work, which Eleanor mentally mocked, yet how were her initial clothing choices less than standard as well? In what areas was Raymond more adept than she?
“I realized what I felt . . . happy. It was such a strange, unusual feeling—light, calm, as though I’d swallowed sunshine.” Raymond is the symbol of the sunshine, willing to give and help others.
Her clothing was very plain so she could fall into the background. Raymond was more adept in social skills.
3. Eleanor’s mother’s philosophy on life was that it’s “all about taking decisive action, whatever you want to take, grab it. Whatever you want to bring an end, END IT. And live with the consequences.” What things did she grab or end, and what did Eleanor grab or end? How was this actually good advice for Eleanor in some ways?
She wanted to end her children’s life so she set the house on fire.
4. Why did it often help Eleanor to get out of bed in the morning knowing that her house plant needed her? Did she ever find a replacement?
This gave her purpose
5. How did Laura help Eleanor by making her “shiny”?
She helped Eleanor find self-confidence in her appearance.
6. Why did little gestures (Raymond’s mother making tea without being asked, remembering Eleanor didn’t take sugar, Laura brought two biscuits with coffee for her) mean so much to her? What makes us take these things for granted?
Eleanor never had some make simple gestures toward her. We take them for granted because they are part of our everyday life and never had to be without.
7. Raymond had also suffered the loss of his father. Eleanor agreed that “time only blunts the pain of loss. It doesn’t erase it.” Why is this? Had she done anything to stymie its healing?
8. Eleanor had always enjoyed reading, but “never been sure how to select appropriate material. How do you know which ones will match your tastes and interests?”
Bookclub is a great choice, try some topic I prefer and force me to read some topic I am not familiar. I also read the description. I have made mental notes of what genre I like.
9. How was “Glen” like Eleanor, a “woman who knew her own mind and scorned the conventions of society? How were they perfect companions? Would Eleanor still have been described this way at the beginning of the book?
Glen was her own cat in that she relied on no one and was fine doing her own thing. They both need someone
10. How does the novel deal with grief? Who does Eleanor grieve for?
p.393:Doctor deduces she was suffering from depression.
11. “Today, it was” Top of the world by Carpenters. The beautiful voice……she sounds so blissful, so full of love. Lovely, Lucky Karen Chapter.” Do you consider Eleanor is the lucky one?
p.164: small deeds could elicit such genuine, generous responses. I fell a little glow inside
from helping, Eleanor starts to feel the joy of serving life with love.
12. “Is knowing always better than not knowing?” What’s your opinion?
Emerged from the flames like a little phoenix. There are scares on her heart.
I hope some undamaged tissue remains, a patch through which love can come in and flow out. (P.125) The scar is a chance to let the love flow in.
13. What do you think the future hold for Eleanor and Raymond? How is their relationship portrayed – is it love?
P.520: I’d tried to cope alone for far too long, and it hadn’t done me any good at all. Sometimes you simply needed someone kind to sit with you while you dealt with things.
p.388: Whenever I’d been sad or upset before, the relevant people in my life would simply call my social worker and I’d be moved somewhere else. Raymond hadn’t phoned anyone or asked an outside agency to intervene. He’d elected to look after me himself. If you were sad, or upset, or behaving in very challenging ways. This was something of a revelation.
The September Book Club Meeting.(by Clive)
“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” Led by Lydia Lai.
"These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them."
Despite several of inconsistencies, I could not help being charmed by this novel! I like the idea that a simple act of kindness took her on a journey and we witness her life unraveling. At the conclusion we agreed that Eleanor was self-pitying and deeply injured and not very nice. Despite all of that, it is possible that one person can make a difference in someone’s life. Perhaps the book speaks most eloquently about loneliness or the idea that loneliness can feel like being severed from life. On the topic of loneliness, Florence asked me to add one thing. I have been asked many times, often by children if I am lonely. I always tell them that I am never lonely. I am alone, but that is a state of being. When I am at home, it is true, I am alone. But I am never lonely. Loneliness is an emotion and one of the differences between being a child and an adult is that adults can control their emotions. Perhaps this book and this current period of pandemic should be a reminder to us of the power of coming together and reaching out to people who may actually need that helping hand.
1.Gail Honeyman: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gail_Honeyman
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