Publisher: Jonathan Cape.
Release Date: 18th August 2015
Genre: Psychological, Mystery, Fiction.
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 neighbourhood 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 counsellor 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 a complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings. -GR
So, wow this book was disturbing. I went into it without reading the blurb (I got it in a set of the Man Booker shortlisted books this past year) and I was not prepared for how dark it was. Praise for Moshfegh – she is not afraid to go for it in her writing, no matter how disgusting, shocking, or taboo.
I will say now that Eileen is a very character-driven book so if you enjoy more plot-driven narratives, I would really consider giving it a miss. This is why I only managed to give Eileen a three star, because for the large portion of the book absolutely nothing happened, really. It was just a couple of hundred pages of Eileen’s internal monologue with little speech from other characters. When something does happen, it just didn’t make up for how slow the rest of the book was – which is saying something considering it is only 260 pages long.
However, because it is so character-focused, you get a real insight into Eileen’s mind and what makes her tick. Saying that, you probably don’t want to, because she is such a vile, disgusting character. I found myself cringing and at one point retching but… I couldn’t stop myself from reading more because she was just so interesting. I know interesting is a pretty limp word but that’s the only way I can describe her, and this book in general. For me, it wasn’t the usual reading experience of being entertained and turning the pages because I’m hooked on finding out what happens next – it was like reading a psychological case study. Eileen just fascinated and repulsed me enough to keep me reading through the pretty stagnant plot.
As a forewarning, there are possible triggers for eating disorders such as bulimia, and abuse. Maybe give it a pass if these are harmful to you, or tread lightly when you are reading so you’re prepared for it.
If you’ve read Eileen, let me know what you thought!