Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh

This book found its way under my Christmas tree this year. My love of reading precedes me and my aunt and uncle bought this for me knowing my penchant for crime thriller novels. Sadly, I have to admit the book disappointed me. 

I found the writing style to be terribly indulgent. Moshfegh uses character development as the main drive of the plot. I suppose I should have expected this, given the title of the book being the protagonists name. Having previously read and thoroughly enjoyed Stoner, I feel that this book has attempted and failed to reach a similar level of success. Both are focused on a portion of a character’s relatively uneventful life and whilst Stoner achieved this with a comfy deliverance, Eileen has failed in this respect. 

The blurb advises that the reader will be taken on a journey through Eileen’s slightly dark lifestyle. Apart from the theme of crime being etched into the settings and characters of the book – Eileen works at a prison, her home love is.dominated by her alcoholic ex police officer father – it rarely otherwise features. The blurb promises that Rebecca’s arrival will soon bring an unexpected turn of events. If you are like me; a slightly impatient reader who without a driving plot can grow tiresome of a book, then you should leave this book on the shelf. 

90 pages into the book I’m wondering where and who Rebecca is. 100 pages later I’m still wondering what she will bring to the book. 30 pages before the end the storyline reveals the only minor twist in the book: something has actually happened rather than listening to an elderly woman’s gripes. Whilst not predictable in its entirety, I was so bored with the book havng been dragged through Eileen’s repetitive retrospective narration of her final few days in X-ville. Moshfegh does achieve the relatable extrapolation of our dark sides in Eileen’s character but this is achieved substantially faster than the 200 pages she dedicates to it. 

In reality this book will sit on my bookshelf and likely be forgotten about. I am unlikely to recommend it or find myself tempted to revisit it’s contents. One slow laborious journey to an anti climatic finish is sufficient for me. I persevered with the book purely due to it being purchased as a gift. 

The cover of the book is inviting, suggesting mystery. The third party praise dotted across it’s blue background promises me an enjoyable read. Whilst one reviewer makes reference to it being a

“Taut psychological thriller, rippled with comedy as black as a ravens wing” – The Times

The only humour I found within the book was a laughable attempt at being anything other than predictably dark. If you wish to establish your protagonist as an anti hero that the audience is invited to treat with a healthy cynicism is to write them as distastefully as possible. The easiest way to achieve this is to give them an interest in bodily fluids. It is not an original concept and where it is the main selling point of a book is effectively a yawning failure for the majority of prolific readers. 

Moshfegh is clearly a talented writer and I would not attempt to dispute this. However, if I was to ever revisit her writing it would only be for a short story where she is unable to waffle as pointlessly as she has in Eileen. 


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