Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Eileen - Ottessa Moshfegh
Eileen, shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, is a story narrated by an elderly woman about how, as a young woman, she came to escape her sad life in a grim New England town. Twenty-four year old Eileen Dunlop lives in squalor with her alcoholic father after her mother passed away. She has no friends and no close extended family. She works in a correctional facility for boys; she despises her workmates and has no social life. She is filled with self-loathing, she drinks, survives on junk food and wears her dead mother's too-large clothes to hide her body. She spends her spare time running to the liquor store to buy gin for her abusive drunken father. She drives her car with the the window open in December because she will be asphyxiated by exhaust fumes if she closes it. She is lonely; she is crazy. She dreams of the day she will escape her unbearable existence.
When the gorgeous Rebecca St. John is hired as a teacher at the correctional facility Eileen believes she has found a soulmate, one she would do anything for. From there things move along rather too quickly and the story suddenly wraps up.
It's not the sort of novel one expects to see on the Man Booker shortlist but it is a good story and held my interest. Eileen is a fascinating character who evokes both sympathy and repulsion. After reading it I felt dirty because Moshfegh's descriptions of the squalor and smells were ultra realistic. I could also feel the biting, dark cold of the New England winter. If you liked Girl On A Train you'll probably enjoy this. I did.