Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple, mundane life, and operates on the same routine every day—she wears the same clothes to work, eats the same meal for lunch from the same location, makes the same dinners, and every weekend buys the same kind of pizza with the same kind of wine, and two bottles of vodka to get her through the weekend. She is incredibly isolated and lonely with no benchmark of how life should be. From a random act of kindness Eleanor realizes exactly what she's been missing and how much better life can be.
The description of Honeyman's debut made it sound like a Bridget Jones type novel. Eleanor is a 30 year-old singleton, living in the city, who drinks a lot, but that is where the comparison ends. In fact, I actually thought that Eleanor may be on the Autism spectrum because of her routines, the difficulty she has in social settings, and her formal speech. However, her behaviour stems from suffering a childhood trauma, and also not having any family or friends to help guide her in social situations—she has been alone for so long that she has no point of reference with things like pop culture, and relationships in general. She is also victim of mental abuse every Wednesday when she talks to her 'Mummy' on the phone.
The novel unfolds through Eleanor and at times she is an unreliable narrator that serves the story perfectly. Incredibly sad at times, this exploration of the human spirit was a bright debut and I highly recommend it.