Today I’m back with a review of another book by my new favourite author Ottessa Moshfegh… this time, it’s about her Man Booker 2016 shortlisted novel, Eileen.
A few weeks ago I (finally) read my first Ottessa Moshfegh novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, which you can read here. Straight away, I fell in love with it and her writing so of course I had to read some more and that’s where Eileen came in. But first, what’s it about? Here’s the synopsis:
Trapped between caring for her alcoholic father and her job as a secretary at the boys’ prison, Eileen Dunlop dreams of escaping to the big city.
In the meantime, her nights and weekends are filled with shoplifting and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes.
When the beautiful, charismatic Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counsellor at the prison, Eileen is enchanted, unable to resist what appears to be a miraculously budding friendship. But soon, Eileen’s affection for Rebecca pull her into a crime that far surpasses even her own wild imagination.
I love this blurb because it’s short and doesn’t give anything away to the overall story. I really enjoyed Eileen – just like My Year of Rest and Relaxation, I couldn’t put it down. There’s something so lush about her writing – it’s compulsive and hard to put down. I think I prefer Eileen as there is more of a layered story and much more layered characters, too.
I’m not going to go too much into the plot and story of the novel as it is so twisty and full of turns, it’s worth the surprise journey she takes you on. I literally gasped out loud – which hardly ever happens. I found she writes something we are all familiar with, and we expect certain stuff to happen but she twists it and turns it on its head and leaves you shellshocked as you read it.
“Love can be like that. It can vanish in an instant. It’s happened since, too. A lover has left the warm rapture of my bed to get a glass of water and returned to only find me cold, uninterested, empty, a stranger. Love can reappear, too, but never unscathed. The second round is inevitably accompanied by doubt, intention, self-disgust. But that is neither here nor there.”
This novel is just beautifully written – I love her use of language, the way she sets a scene and I think one of her strengths is creating atmosphere. I could picture the houses, the bar, the store, Eileen’s car, the prison – everything just felt real and believable. Her characters are layered, unlikeable but fascinating to read. I loved the structure of the novel, too. The novel explores: memory, identity, sexuality, sensuality, family, addiction, death, grief, and so much more with Ottessa’s signature wit and eye for detail.
For me, Moshfegh’s books are books you may find in a cottage, it’s snowing outside, you pour yourself a glass of something, cuddle up on the sofa and read her books. They just have that atmosphere for me and I really think she’s one of my favourite authors. It’s sharp, bleak, shocking, playful and so much more. This needs to be a limited series – pronto.
I can’t wait for her new novel coming out later this year and I’m going to read her short story collection Homesick For Another World as I think her writing is perfect for short stories.
Have you read Eileen? What did you think? Are you a fan of Ottessa Moshfegh’s books? Let me know in the comments!