August book club was to celebrate a clubber’s birthday and to discuss Eleanor Oliphant is Fine, by Gail Honeyman. It was an excellent meeting, and I thought the book was great. Mind you, I would like to shoot the blurb writer for making it sound like a much happier story than it was! Thankfully, you get a sense of how dark a place you’re going pretty early on.
I thought the story was well constructed, the characters great and it was an interesting journey to take a protagonist on. Definitely see why people like it.
There were just two things in it that bugged me. One was that Eleanor’s life starts to change the moment she gets a makeover… sigh. Not as objectionable as in some books and films, but seriously?
The other was a really odd thing.
At one point we see what a social worker wrote about Eleanor as a child and the man’s name was Brocklehurst. Now I’ve only ever seen that name once in fiction – in Jane Eyre – so it really caught my eye. I guess you might have used it if you knew a person/place called Brocklehurst but in the context of taking a child from a family (which he does in Jane Eyre) it was jarring.
Then, I noticed the family’s name was Reed and the children’s names were the same as the Reed family in Jane Eyre. So at that point Gail Honeyman was 100% referencing that famous text. But why?
A few pages later you see that Eleanor is a Jane Eyre fan. But why?
Given the immersive nature of the narrative, these points yanked me out of the story like cold water down the back. And they had no pay-off. They led no where.
It was odd.