In honor of its premiere in theatres next week, I decided to pick up Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh. This short novel follows the dark story of Eileen, a 24-year-old girl from "X-Ville," who wishes to escape her dreadful life as a prison secretary by any means possible--and I mean that literally.
For those uninitiated to the Moshfegh fan club, this author is known for her dark, absurdist, and occasionally funny works. Eileen was her debut novel, and I definitely saw a difference between the writing style in Eileen vs. Lapvona (I know, it was an odd first pick for Moshfegh, but I saw the cover and wanted to learn more! What can you do).
I read Eileen with a mix of emotions: intrigue, disgust, and horror--which, if you know my reading tastes, is a compliment. The short novel kept me engaged the entire time, wondering how one of the most unlikable protagonists I've ever encountered was going to get out of her small town. One aspect of the writing I really responded to was the interjections from future Eileen, who pitied and critized her past self during the course of the story. Eileen as a character was woefully pitiable, from her utter terror at her own body to the extreme judgment and paranoia she projected onto others. I think Moshfegh did a wonderful job of illustrating that a protagonist (particularly a young, female protagonist) can be deeply and truly flawed--but that doesn't make a story any less engaging. In fact, if the actions of Eileen were told from anyone else's point of view (excluding perhaps the mysterious Rebecca, for other obvious reasons), I believe it wouldn't have done the topic justice.
With themes of alcoholism, depression, institutional abuse, and well, that thing that happened at the end (spoiler: murder), Eileen is a tough read. But its unique voice and edge-of-your-seat suspense and dread kept me entertained during my entire stay in Moshfegh's head, so I definitely think its worth your while.
Pro tip for the blog readers out there: we have a few used copies of Eileen for around $10, so make sure to come down and grab your own copy!