Eleanor Oliphant not alone in Mental Health Awareness Week

Eleanor Oliphant tackles crippling impacts of loneliness

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By Oliviah Rix-Taylor

on Friday 18 May 2018

beautiful but decaying flowers

The trending hashtag #mentalhealthawarenessweek demonstrates how far we have come in terms of open discussion about mental health. That’s not to say the progress can stop there, but we’re on the right trajectory to improving attitudes to mental health.

With 1 in 3 adults affected by a mental health condition, the recent turn around in how we now view, approach, and treat mental health is a welcome change.

But where does Eleanor Oliphant fit into all of this? This glittering debut tackles the crippling impact of loneliness in ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’.

This book is drenched in loneliness but deals with the topic in a life-affirming, humorous and tender way, where loneliness is entangled with the rippling effects of small acts of kindness.

The Scottish author, Gail Honeyman, decided it was now or never with the looming threat of her 40th birthday. She picked up her pen and began to scribble away during her lunch breaks and during any stolen moments.

A literary agent discovered Honeyman and her talent after she entered a literary competition. Although she didn’t win the competition, her unique literary style was hard to ignore.

Eleanor Oliphant is the story of a woman, on the cusp of turning thirty, who has spent most of her life, although present, very separate from everyone around her. She struggles to fit in with her colleagues and dwindles her weekends away with only two bottles of vodka for companionship.

Although she is true to herself, Eleanor’s peculiar and old-fashioned persona seems to vex those around her, especially her complete disregard for popular culture. She is a stickler for routine, enjoying her pasta and pesto dinners on a nightly basis whilst trailing her trolley bag behind her.

But it isn’t long before Eleanor Oliphant’s routine existence is thrown into disarray by a tiny act of kindness and an accidental friendship. Eleanor believes she is ‘completely fine’ but she is about to ask herself the question that no one else has, is she?

Honeyman’s debut was received with huge success; the rights were fought over in numerous bidding wars across the globe in the UK, America, and Germany.

It’s a story that has appealed to a worldwide audience and has sold a staggering number of copies, making it the second debut bestseller of 2017. The book has collected numerous Book Award crowns; Costa First Novel Award, Book of the Year at the British Book Awards and Goodreads Choice Awards Best Fiction, to name a few.

Reese Witherspoon has won the rights for its Hollywood adaptation with her production company Hello Sunshine and is rumored to play the beloved protagonist.  Hello Sunshine is responsible for the Emmy Award Winning TV series ‘Big Little Lies’ and the movie blockbuster ‘Gone Girl’, both book adaptations. 

Thanks to the raucous success of Gail Honeyman, we believe that Eleanor Oliphant is an invaluable icon for Mental Health Awareness Week. Partly for showing us it’s the small, biscuits-with-tea acts of kindness that can make a big difference, but mostly for reminding us we don’t have to just survive, we can delight in living.