Monday, 10 August 2015

Review: Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

A lonely young woman working in a boys’ prison outside Boston  in the early 60s is pulled into a very strange crime, in a mordant,  harrowing story of obsession and suspense, by one of the brightest  new voices in fiction.

So here we are. My name was Eileen Dunlop. Now you know me. I was twenty-four years old then, and had a job that paid fifty-seven dollars a week as a kind of secretary at a private juvenile correctional facility for teenage boys. I think of it now as what it really was for all intents and purposes—a prison for boys. I will call it Moorehead. Delvin Moorehead was a terrible landlord I had years later, and so to use his name for such a place feels appropriate. In a week, I would run away from home and never go back.

This is the story of how I disappeared.

The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys’ prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors. Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a buff prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes. When the bright, beautiful, and cheery Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at Moorehead, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. In a Hitchcockian twist, her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.

Played out against the snowy landscape of coastal New England in the days leading up to Christmas, young Eileen’s story is told from the gimlet-eyed perspective of the now much older narrator. Creepy, mesmerizing, and sublimely funny, in the tradition of Shirley Jackson and early Vladimir Nabokov, this powerful debut novel enthralls and shocks, and introduces one of the most original new voices in contemporary literature.

Hardcover, 272 pages
Expected publication: August 18th 2015 by Penguin Press
Terri's Thoughts

** I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher Penguin via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  The expected publication date is August 18th 2015**

Sadly this will be a short review as I did not enjoy this read.  I am not sure how I missed the literary acclaim that the synopsis suggests but to me the whole story was just weird.  The main character was not likable, completely full of herself and frankly disgusting.  Her thoughts were all perverse and her aversion to showering just because made it difficult to identify with her.

Putting aside the main character, I was more than halfway through the story and I did not know what it was about or the direction it would be taken.  This is a story where literally nothing happens.  You literally have to wait until the end to find out what the point of the story is and even then it seems more random than planned,  It simply did not work for me.

While I can see that this story may appeal to some it simply did not for me.

About the Author
Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from Boston. She was awarded the Plimpton Prize for her stories in The Paris Review and granted a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is currently a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford.

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