Sunday, August 6, 2017

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

4.75 stars

“But I deplored silence. I deplored stillness. I hated almost everything.”

NOTE: I am not spoiling any major events in the spoiler tags, but I do hint to characters' pathology and actions without mentioning what the big finale/climax is. Click at your own risk.

Eileen recounts the reason why she left X-ville at the age of twenty-four. Eileen Dunlop lives with her alcoholic father and works at the local juvenile detention center, Moorehead. When Rebecca Saint John, arrives Eillen begins to find her place that she has been searching for, but one-night leads down a dark path. A path Eileen has a morbid fascination and obsession with. In this psychological novel, Eileen’s story is brought forth in an intense character study. This study is provided by Eileen herself as she tells the story of who she was and why she left X-ville. Since Eileen is the one providing thoughts on her own demeaner, actions, and obsessions, the story itself is incredibly unreliable. We are given no information as to if everything or anything Eileen leads us to be is real or actually happened. We also don’t know if her actions weren’t altered or if her memory of events has faded as she gets older. This character study of a disturbingly morbid woman is provided by an old woman who was an avid alcoholic and thief. Moshfegh leads Eileen down a winding road of quiet stillness, drunken stupors at home, lolling moments in her life, and ends the novel with a large bang. Not everyone is going to Eileen, the story or the narrator. In fact, I think to like this novel you have to dislike Eileen. That’s what makes this psychological thriller so brilliant. It’s unlike anything I’ve read. It stands on its own for being a slow-burn introduction that hints to what is to come and leaves off with an intense unforgettable bang that alters the pace of the story and the reader’s perception of Eileen.

Whimsical Writing Scale: 4.5

“I was always furious, seething, my thoughts racing, my mind like a killer’s. It was easy to hide behind the dull face I wore.”

Eileen is a disgusting character. She says questionable things, mentions a lot of orifices, and has uncomfortable obsessions. She judges her father’s harsh and heavy drinking, but partakes in drinking just as much as he does. She has an obsession that turns into stalking with a coworker at Moorehead. She obsesses over gruesome possibilities of death or murder. Eileen is an unsettling woman and as an old lady, she pities who she was and describes in great detail how pathetic the Eileen of the past was. While, Eileen is horrible she is also fascinating and is a character that could lead to countless hours of discussion. The most interesting thing about Eileen is  that she hints to obsessions with morbid and macabre acts of violence, but when faced with the ability to kill someone, she attempts to console the possible victim. It provides knowledge that Eileen is just a person who doesn’t know who she is, but when confronted with the opportunity to partake in the darkest of humanities acts, she shows kindness in multiple different ways.

Rebecca quickly becomes Eileen’s newest obsession and hope to be noticed. Eileen longs for friendship, companionship, but most of all she longs for someone to listen to her. Rebecca is a glamorous new doctor at Moorehead that offers Eileen the chance to reinvent herself. Slowly, Eileen hints that Rebecca may be more manipulative that she seems. There are subtle hints, mainly in phrasing and odd word choice. For instance, a normal conversation with Eileen has the odd phrasing of, “It’s sort of my modus vivendi, or my pathology- depending on who I’m talking to.” Rebecca immediately struck me as off and as the story progresses, it’s obvious that she is just as lost as Eileen and as morbid.Rebecca orchestrates this big set up, but in the end, she is a coward who leaves Eileen to clean up the mess she made.

The only other large character in this novel is Eileen’s father. He is an ever-looming presence, skulking in the corners of Eileen’s mind. His character is really detestable, as all the characters in this novel are. However, I won’t say too much about him because the more I say about him, the more I’d give away about Eileen’s backstory.

Character Scale: 5

Villain Scale: 5

This is a character driven story and the opening 20% relies completely upon characters. There isn’t much plot in this story, but I feel that is what makes this such a successful psychological thriller. The problem with most psychological thrillers today is that they want to be the next Gone Girl or want to have the novel with the most shocking, groundbreaking twists. However, the problem with having shocking, crazy twists is that they leave plot holes in a character study. It’s why The Girl on the Train didn’t work for me. I found it to be cheap, but Eileen works for me because all the signs pointed to where this was going to build up. The question was the ending and how everything played out.

I only recommend this novel to those who love character studies, unreliable narrators, psychology, and slow pacing. I think this is the perfect read for the winter. The story’s setting is cold, emotionless, and bone-chilling. While this story isn’t for everyone, I am so happy to have picked this up. I wouldn’t have ever picked this novel up, if I hadn’t heard about it from someone who has similar tastes in psychological thrillers as me.
“I’m not a criminal. She deserves far worse, but I’m no villain.”

Plotastic Scale: 4.5

Cover Thoughts: I don’t feel like the cover is striking, but it has an audience who will be pulled to pick it up.

Thank you, Netgalley and Penguin Press, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Have you read Eileen? Are you a fan of character driven novels? What is a psychological thriller that you love? Let me know down below in the comments! 

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