This Book is a part of Man Booker 2016 Shortlist Read Series
“Eileen” is a debut novel from Ottessa Moshfegh which reflects the life of an unhappy New Englander. As the judges’ panel put it together “(these books) reflect the centrality of the novel in modern culture – in its ability to champion the unconventional, to explore the unfamiliar, and to tackle difficult subjects”
If this was the criteria to be met to make it to the shortlist, “Eileen” ticks most of the requirements with enough grace and a bit timidity.
Book #: 36
Title: “Eileen” by Ottessa Moshfegh
“How are planning to celebrate your Christmas?”
If Christmas is four days away, it is absolutely difficult to keep your nerves calm. There is joy all around you, decorations, excitement, and celebrations. Those will be the days that you look forward to but not for Eileen Dunlop. It is a non-exciting premise not only for her but for the entire of Dunlop family. Back in the day when her mother was alive, they used to have some celebrations with her aunt, the only person who even cared for a prayer.
But, this time, back in the 1960s, a 24-year old Eileen had a surprise. She was not expecting anything exciting to follow up in her already awful life. Ever since we were introduced to Eileen, we know that there is something going to happen to her. She refers to herself as “unnoticed”, “unexciting” and “non-attractive”, with the law of averages catching up, she had to be someone who draws attention and gets to do something more exciting that Christmas.
She suffered from some sort of inferiority complex- driven mainly by the way her father treated her. Her mother was someone she liked but never missed her after she passed away next to her on the bed. She might be the one who actually got benefitted out of it. She got to wear all her mother’s clothes, even though they misfit her, she never cared for the aesthetics of it.
She worked at a children prison with great observation skills. She had a crush on the security guard, Randy, only to be distracted by a strong attractive female Rebecca who brings excitement in her life. Rebecca is a class apart from the women she met so far in that life. She defeated her desire of quit the X-Ville and run away from all this.
“Eileen” is petite in nature and so is the novel. It takes you a bit of patience to bear through the negativity surrounding the protagonist. But, she has an opinion on everything quite contrary to what a present girl would have. She needed a trigger and Rebecca is the trigger. Your patience pays off when Rebecca enters the story. She draws the attention of not only Eileen by every reader too.
In an unexpected twist at the end, it shifts from a sad biography to a crime fiction- and the switch is super quick and surprising. Does it excite you? Yes, it does from the context of the story narrated until then. As a standalone, I doubt. But, the narration is meant to be a part of a long awful story of Eileen.
Read it once and move on.
Man Booker Shortlist Series:
“His Bloody Project” by Graeme Macrae Burnet
“The Sellout” by Paul Beatty
“All That Man Is” by David Szalay
“Hot Milk”- Deborah Levy
“Do Not Say We Have Nothing” – Madeleine Thien