Eileen – Book Review

Eileen is a well-written and strange little book, that is hard to recommend. But stay with me.

It’s slow. Fully three fourths of the book are just a few days in the life of Eileen, a rather odd young woman with no ambition and a social recluse by choice. She just goes to work at a juvenile penitentiary, buys booze for her alcoholic father, stalks a coworker and lies still in her attic bedroom thinking about how much the world sucks.

The action comes in the last fourth, and is especially dark. There are no “good guys” in this book. There is no happy ending. It is dark and bleak throughout.

However Moshfegh’s writing and the main character’s quirks are enough to get you through most of it, and the resolution makes up for the slowness.

Recommended for people who like this sort of thing.

Okay, the book is better than I make it out to be; Eileen, the eponymous main character, is an interesting person to read about. Her nihilistic views of the world are scathing and funny. You somehow root for her while also hoping you never meet her. She’d be a horrible dinner date.

The big splash image above is by Jonathan Bartlett, and is taken from the Boston Globe review of Eileen. The review sort-of mirrors mine, at least in describing the feel of the book:

“Ottessa Moshfegh’s excellent debut novel, “Eileen,” contains a nightmare rendering of 1960s working-class New England. Its setting, a town referred to only as X-ville, is a frozen place utterly without character, populated by cold, grim, repressed, tradition-bound people locked into pointless, regimented lives.”

Again, if this sounds like something you might like, it will really be something you’ll like. My wife gave up about half-way through the book but I plowed through and am happy I did.
It’s really good.

Well, it’s really good if slow noir-ish existential dread is your sort of thing.


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