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Eileen: A Novel by Ottessa Moshfegh

Eileen: A Novel

by Ottessa Moshfegh

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5704817,442 (3.36)92
  1. 10
    Bury Me Deep: A Novel by Megan Abbott (RidgewayGirl)
    RidgewayGirl: Both are excellent examples of American Noir.
  2. 00
    The Girls by Emma Cline (sturlington)
  3. 00
    Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson (sturlington)
    sturlington: Moshfegh's style reminds me of Shirley Jackson; both novels had young, unreliable narrators.

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Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
This book made my skin crawl. Eileen, by her own description, is "barely civilized," and, man, that is no lie. There are probably people in the real world walking among us who are like this, and that is a scary thought indeed. I can't really recommend this book, as it makes me feel like I need to take a shower, yet it's so far off the hook that one almost has to check it out. The best word I can think of to describe it is "icky." ( )
1 vote flourgirl49 | May 3, 2017 |
I pretty much wanted to read this one the moment it came out; between the cover, the Boston setting, and the sense of noir-ish-ness I got from the plot, it seemed like a sure hit for me. I made it the January pick for my book club and ... I'm glad I read this book, but I'm really ambivalent about it. (Most of my book club hated it, although more than one person admired the raw narrative style.)

Set around Christmas in 1963, the novel is narrated by Eileen. A much older Eileen tells us this story, and she offers up her younger self on a platter, unvarnished and exposed.

Eileen works as a secretary in a boy's juvenile detention facility/prison. She lives with her father, an retired police office and alcoholic who is plagued by terrors (and perhaps mental illness). Eileen's life shuttles between work and home, where she spends most of her time in resentful meditation of her small world and the people in it. She loathes everyone around her, and she has no escape from the misery, real or self-induced. It's only when Rebecca, the pretty and cheerful and unorthodox new counselor arrives does Eileen's life change.

This book felt straight-up Catcher in the Rye, but with a lady; only Eileen is a hell of a lot more honest than Holden ever was, and definitely more badass. (In her vicious, restrained way.) Older Eileen, our narrator, seems well adjusted despite, frankly, being such a cold, odd young woman; yet she recounts this time period with a squeamish attention to detail, savoring the ways she was horrible and monstrous and naive. I couldn't decide if I wanted to revile or hug Eileen.

Most of the book reads kind of like a coming-of-age; but in the last quarter of the book, the story makes a jackknife dive into seriously effed up territory, and that's when I started to really enjoy things. There was a real noir-ish feel to the story that I just ate up.

So...I think I liked this book? I can't tell. But I'm a bit obsessed with it; Moshfegh's open admission she wrote it to gain fame and success has me breathlessly in awe of her.

If you enjoy unlikable characters and messed up young women, seedy settings and depressed dissolution, get this one. (And then tell me because I want to obsess about the end!) ( )
  unabridgedchick | Apr 12, 2017 |
I think I missed the point of this book.
My understanding was that it was about a strange woman that gets enchanted by someone and ends up involved in a dark crime.
Well, after 2/3 of the book went by and the event still didn't happen, I became irritated.
Then when it finally happened, it was so uneventful and strange that I was shaking my head. Disappointing to say the least.
In my opinion they should have marketed this book as what it was and not what they thought would draw readers. It is a book about a woman that wants out of her sad life and this crime finally gives her the reason to actually do something about it. Not a dark crime novel, but a literary novel about wanting to escape. Maybe then I would not have been so disappointed.
I should say that Otessa Moshfegh is a brilliant writer and I will definitely read her next novel. I will probably even end up liking it now that I will go into it with a different mindset. ( )
  antrat1965 | Apr 7, 2017 |
Eileen is a most unpleasant character, a twenty-four-year-old girl working as a secretary in a juvenile delinquent facility for boys, enabling her verbally abusive father's alcoholism, doing everything she can to make herself disappear. This is the story of the last week she spends living with her father in her unnamed dead-end hometown in Massachusetts, the week of Christmas, related from the vantage point of fifty years later, when she has long since given up being Eileen altogether. The turning point that finally catalyzes inert Eileen into movement is the arrival at the prison of an exciting, glamorous woman, Rebecca, whom Eileen instantly idealizes.

The writing here reminds me of Shirley Jackson, although Moshfegh lacks Jackson's acerbic wit. Here, as Jackson frequently did, Moshfegh climbs deep into the head of a disturbed young woman and lets us look out at the world through her eyes. It's not a fun head to be in--the sections about the laxatives were enough to turn my stomach--but Moshfegh manages to make Eileen a believable and sometimes pitiable person in spite of herself. Rebecca, on the other hand, was much more of an enigma, and sometimes I questioned whether she even existed or whether the events unfolded as Eileen related them; some of the plot developments seemed a bit too convenient. But in all, this is a well-done character study, thought-provoking and sometimes queasiness-inducing, and I found myself wondering what horrific things Eileen became involved in after leaving town. ( )
  sturlington | Mar 30, 2017 |
Very depressing with a highly unlikeable main character. Some sympathy for her and her father, but more for the boys in prison. ( )
  DM4444 | Mar 1, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Moshfegh, whose novella, “McGlue,” was published last year, writes beautiful sentences. One after the other they unwind — playful, shocking, wise, morbid, witty, searingly sharp. The ­beginning of this novel is so impressive, so controlled yet whimsical, fresh and thrilling, you feel she can do anything....But for this reader, the thrill is the language. It is sentences like this: “The terrain of my face was heavy with soft, rumbling acne scars blurring whatever delight or madness lay beneath that cold and deadly New England exterior.”...Rebecca and her motivations, once we learn them, feel pasted in from another book. They do not square with the universe Moshfegh so meticulously created in the first part of the novel...The real excitement toward the end is watching Eileen come into a position of authority for the first time in her life.
It’s hard to imagine the terrible, drunken, addled father who visited the toilet with a handgun ever tolerating Eileen’s “blabbering on about my ideas, regurgitating barely read synopses from the backs of books … talking about how I felt about myself, life, the times in which we lived”.

The bad thing that is eventually revealed, and the bad thing that happens as a consequence, don’t quite live up to the atmospheric badness with which the novel draws along the reader. But there is something satisfyingly unsettling about the novel – the awfulness of Eileen’s life crackles throughout the air of X-Ville like static electricity, ready to discharge in some unlikely place or upon some unlikely person. And when it does, when the bell jar lifts, our heroine “open to the circulating air” and finally free, we can’t help but feel the slightest bit glad.
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I looked like a girl you'd expect to see on a city bus, reading some clothbound book from the library about plants or geography, perhaps wearing a net over my light brown hair.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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amazon ca :A lonely young woman working in a boys’ prison outside Boston in the early 60s is pulled into a very strange crime, in a mordant, harrowing story of obsession and suspense, by one of the brightest new voices in 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 neighborhood 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 counselor 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 complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.

Played out against the snowy landscape of coastal New England in the days leading up to Christmas, young Eileen’s story is told from the gimlet-eyed perspective of the now much older narrator. Creepy, mesmerizing, and sublimely funny, in the tradition of Shirley Jackson and early Vladimir Nabokov, this powerful debut novel enthralls and shocks, and introduces one of the most original new voices in contemporary literature.
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