Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Eileen; Ottessa Moshfegh

Eileen; Ottessa Moshfegh
Penguin - 2015

Just who is Eileen? In a town only referred to as X-ville in Massachusetts lived 24 year old Eileen Dunlop. Some might see her simply as a lonely young woman with low self esteem who cares for her alcoholic ex-cop father.  To me, Eileen was much more complex and unbelievably disturbed. I thought she could have easily been a sibling of the Anthony Perkins character in the movie Psycho.

It's the 1960's and poor Eileen has a horrible life. She hated her mother who died a few years earlier, and now cares for her alcoholic, verbally abusive, father. She has no friends, works as a secretary at a correction's facility for troubled,under aged boys. When day is done, she pretty much stops off for booze for her father, returning home to their filthy, disgusting house, and then retreating to a room in the attic.

One day Rebecca, an attractive, educated young woman from work becomes friendly with Eileen, and invites her over one evening. Rebecca's interest in Eileen is self-serving, and leads to an unexpected turn of events for Eileen. 

In some ways, after all the buildup, the ending seemed somewhat unsatisfying. Don't get me wrong, Eileen is a fascinating character study. I was glued to her every depraved thought and word. She's a woman who was obsessed and excited by things that would repulse most normal people. [This author can write and dig deep into the psyche]

I read this book while travelling to and from NYC recently, and honestly, could not put it down. It's one of those stories where just when you think things can't get any worst, they do. The story is told from Eileen's perspective now as an old woman, looking back to the month around Christmas when she was 24. Despite my disappointment in the ending, I still highly recommend this to readers who love twisted protagonists.

4.5/5 stars
(review copy-amazon vine)

 2 quotes from Eileen ---"A grown woman is like a coyote--she can get by on very little.  Men are more like housecats. Leave them alone for too long and they'll die of sadness.  Over the years I've grown to love men for this weakness.  I've tried to respect them as people, full of feelings, fluctuating and beautiful from day to day. I've listened, soothed and wiped the tears away.  But as a young woman in X-ville, I had no idea that other people--men or women--felt things as deeply as I did.  I had no compassion for anyone unless his suffering allowed me to indulge in my own. My development is very stunted in this regard."

"I pulled on a pair of old woolen tights and went and found a spare bottle of gin I'd hidden in the closet and handed it to my father. He took it and flipped the light on with his free hand.  When his newspaper slipped from his knees, I caught sight of the dark patch of pubic hair in his lap.  That terrified me.  I saw, too, his gun sitting on the edge of the sink.  I'd wondered about that gun from time to time.  In my darkest moments, I'd imagined easing it out from under my father's sleeping body and pulling the trigger.  I'd aim straight through the back of my skull so that I'd slump down over him, my blood and brains oozing all over his cold, flaccid chest.  But honestly, even in those darkest moments, the idea of anyone examining my naked corpse was enough to keep me alive.  I was that ashamed of my body.  It also concerned me that my demise would have no great impact, that I could blow my head off and people would say, That's all right. Let's get something to eat."


  1. I do love a good twisted protagonist!

  2. I'm not sure if this sounds too twisty for me.

  3. I'm so impressed that you read and reviewed this long before I heard about it, long before it was announced on the Booker long list! I didn't see her as disturbed as you did, although I can see why she is perceived as crazy. I saw her as completely depraved from the lack of any parenting, or family, whatsoever. It made me feel so sad for all the people in the world who are so lonely, who have no love or affirmation at all.


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