In the world of contemporary fiction, few characters stand out as starkly as Eleanor Oliphant from Gail Honeyman’s novel, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. This book was a whirlwind ride of emotions that drew us into the singular world of Eleanor, with her routine life, her distinct lack of social skills, and her slowly revealed, deeply moving backstory.
In this blog post, we dive into the literary waters to find books that echo the themes and character development that made us fall in love with Eleanor.
Each of these books is a gem in its own right, but they share common threads that will resonate with those who were touched by Eleanor Oliphant’s story.
Understanding the Themes in Eleanor Oliphant
Loneliness and Isolation
Eleanor’s daily life is defined by a rigid routine that exemplifies loneliness and isolation. The book delves deep into these themes, showing how Eleanor’s disconnection from the world around her shapes her actions and responses. It’s a poignant exploration of how a lack of social interaction can impact mental health.
Trauma and Mental Health
Eleanor’s past is gradually revealed to be fraught with trauma, casting a shadow over her present. The book handles the sensitive subject of mental health with grace, illustrating how past experiences can have lingering effects. It’s a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the potential for recovery.
The Power of Friendship
Eleanor’s unlikely friendship with Raymond, the IT guy from her office, is a highlight of the novel. This relationship is a beacon of hope in Eleanor’s life, breaking her out of her shell of loneliness and illustrating the transformative power of genuine friendship.
Self-Discovery and Personal Growth
Eleanor’s journey is not just about surviving her past, but about learning to thrive in her present. The book is a testament to the power of self-discovery and personal growth, showing how Eleanor’s exploration of her own identity leads her to find joy, connection, and a sense of belonging.
Books with Similar Themes
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
“A Man Called Ove” is a heartwarming tale of a grumpy yet loveable man whose solitary world is turned upside down when a lively young family moves in next door. Like Eleanor Oliphant, Ove is socially awkward and isolated, but he finds connection and friendship in the most unlikely places.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
“The Rosie Project” tells the story of Don Tillman, a socially inept genetics professor who embarks on a scientific project to find the perfect wife. The novel, like Eleanor Oliphant, explores themes of loneliness and the power of unexpected friendships, all while offering a dose of humor.
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
“My Name is Lucy Barton” is a deeply moving novel about the relationship between a woman and her mother, who visit each other in the hospital over the course of several days. Like Eleanor Oliphant, Lucy Barton is a survivor of a traumatic childhood, and her story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
Books with Unique, Well-Developed Characters
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
“The Catcher in the Rye” features one of literature’s most iconic characters, Holden Caulfield. Much like Eleanor, Holden is a unique individual dealing with a difficult past. His narrative voice is distinct, and his observations about the world are both poignant and humorous.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
This novel follows Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old boy who is brilliant at math but struggles with understanding people. His perspective, like Eleanor’s, is unique, offering an insight into a mind that processes information differently.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
“Where’d You Go, Bernadette” presents the quirky, creative, and complex character of Bernadette Fox. Like Eleanor, Bernadette struggles with social interaction and prefers to stay in her comfort zone, but when life forces her out of it, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
Books with Quirky Humor and Heartfelt Moments
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
This book tells the extraordinary story of Allan Karlsson who decides to escape his 100th birthday party and embarks on an unforeseen adventure. Much like Eleanor Oliphant, this book is filled with unexpected humor while exploring themes of life’s unpredictability and the beauty in unexpected friendships.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
“The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” is a heartfelt tale of a grumpy bookstore owner whose life takes an unexpected turn. Like Eleanor Oliphant, this book finds humor in the mundane and explores the transformative power of relationships.
The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
“The Rosie Effect” is the sequel to “The Rosie Project”, and continues the life of Don Tillman. Don’s approach to life continues to be as quirky and humorous as it was in the first book, but now he grapples with impending fatherhood. Like in Eleanor Oliphant, this book manages to blend humor and emotional depth seamlessly.
Books for Fans of Contemporary Fiction
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
“Little Fires Everywhere” is a brilliant exploration of family dynamics, motherhood, and the weight of secrets. It captures the complexities of suburban life and class divide, similar to how Eleanor Oliphant paints a picture of urban loneliness.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
“Normal People” is an exquisite love story that delves into the intricacies of human relationships. Like Eleanor Oliphant, it’s a narrative that offers depth, emotion, and a true-to-life portrayal of human connection.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
“Anxious People” is a poignant comedy about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined. It’s a narrative that perfectly blends humor and heartache, much like Eleanor Oliphant.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
When Harold Fry decides to walk 600 miles to deliver a letter to a dying friend, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Like Eleanor Oliphant, Harold is a quirky character who experiences personal growth through an unexpected adventure.
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
Britt-Marie, a socially awkward and obsessive woman, finds herself in a rundown town where she becomes the coach of a kids’ soccer team. It’s a delightful story of an unlikely heroine who, like Eleanor, is better than she thinks she is.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Lily Owens embarks on a journey to uncover her mother’s past, discovering friendship and the power of female community. Like Eleanor Oliphant, it tackles themes of trauma and healing.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Major Pettigrew, a proper Englishman, forms an unlikely friendship with a local Pakistani shopkeeper. Much like Eleanor Oliphant, this novel is a charming exploration of unexpected friendship and overcoming social norms.
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
A heartrending story about a couple living on an isolated island and the baby they find washed up on the shore. Like Eleanor Oliphant, it’s a tale of moral dilemmas, love, and consequences.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Olive Kitteridge, a retired school teacher, navigates the challenges of old age, witnessing the dramas of her small town. Similar to Eleanor Oliphant, Olive is an unusual but deeply human character who learns to connect with others.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This novel follows a shy and introverted high school freshman, Charlie, who is trying to navigate adolescence while dealing with past trauma. Like Eleanor, Charlie is a unique character on a path of self-discovery.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Two sisters struggle to survive during World War II in France, each in her own way. This book shares with Eleanor Oliphant the themes of trauma, resilience, and the power of friendship and love.
Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
This is a heartwarming story about a reclusive writer, her precocious son, and their dedicated assistant. The characters, like Eleanor, are quirky and endearing, each struggling with their unique challenges.
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
Susan Green is a perfectly ordered life just like Eleanor Oliphant, but when she becomes pregnant her life begins to change in unexpected ways. It’s another exploration of a life lived differently, punctuated with wit and heart.
These books each offer something special for fans of Eleanor Oliphant, whether it’s the touching exploration of personal growth, the focus on healing from past traumas, or the endearing portrayal of uniquely memorable characters.
We’ve journeyed through a range of books that share common threads with Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – from books exploring similar themes of isolation, trauma, friendship, and self-discovery, to ones with uniquely captivating characters that stand out just as starkly as Eleanor herself. We’ve also explored books that, like Eleanor Oliphant, strike the perfect balance between humor and emotional depth.
Remember, the joy of reading lies not just in finding books similar to those we’ve loved, but in discovering new authors, themes, and characters that touch us in unexpected ways. So, while this list is a good starting point, we encourage you to continue exploring the vast world of literature. You never know where you might find your next Eleanor Oliphant.
And as you embark on your reading journey, we’d love to hear from you. Have you read any of these books? Do you have other recommendations for fans of Eleanor Oliphant? Let’s keep this literary conversation going in the comments section below.