Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, The Bottle Imp

The Bottle Imp is an Association of Scottish Literary Studies e-zine. The magazine is published twice yearly and promotes Scotland’s vibrant literary culture. Contributors include Kevin MacNeil and Zoe Strachan. Read my review of Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine in Issue 22.

‘Pain is easy; pain is something with which I am familiar’, the eponymous anti-hero of Gail Honeyman’s bestselling novel tells us. On Fridays, Eleanor Oliphant buys two bottles of vodka, takes a few big swigs and falls asleep on the sofa: ‘I drink the rest […] over the weekend, spread it throughout both days so that I’m neither drunk nor sober.’

Eleanor struggles to remember the last time she saw inside another person’s home, and loves her houseplant Polly most in the world. Honeyman expresses this isolation in terms of what’s missing: Eleanor loves the word niamniamensis because ‘it’s like kissing, the ‘m’s forcing your lips together, rolling over the consonants, your tongue poking into ‘n’s and over the ‘s’.’

The routine, the boring office job, her empty flat, all suggest a soporific silence; we’re surprised when the phone rings and Eleanor’s mother zings down the line: ‘She laughed, a cocktail party tinkle – the light, bright sound of a Noel Coward character enjoying an amusing exchange of bon mots on a wisteria-clad terrace.’ But Mummy isn’t phoning from a soirée […]