Book Review: Eileen


Forgive me, I have fallen horribly behind on my blog posting! In the meantime, I’ve been reading up a storm and I have not one, but two book reviews to share with you. If I keep this kind of productivity up, I will definitely reach my goal of 50 books read by the end of the year. Of course I shouldn’t get ahead of myself, it is only January. But here it goes for my second finished book of the year, Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh.

Eileen was on my list of books to read last year, as it topped many reading lists that I referenced my own list from. The title character, Eileen, is one of the most odd characters that I’ve ever encountered in my reading career. For that alone, I appreciate this novel. Characterization is the hugest factor for me in Fiction (as you know if you’ve read any of my reviews), and Moshfegh did an incredible job building this complicated, irritating character.

Eileen is 24 (same age as me!), living with her alcoholic and emotionally abusive father and working at a boy’s prison. This novel also takes place in the 1960’s for some background. The story is narrated by a much older (elderly), Eileen looking back on the events leading up to her leaving her home, job, father, and identity. Eileen acts as a prude but she has perverse thoughts. She blames her father for her unhappiness, but enables him to drink by buying his alcohol. Everyone treats Eileen badly, but for some reason as a reader, I don’t feel bad for her. She is incredibly selfish and I can’t help but not trust her narration. It is all very “poor me” and self serving. This doesn’t bother me, I don’t always have to like the main character, I find it very interesting to be into a story in which I’m not rooting for the protagonist.

My problem with this story is that I feel like I was told a very boring perspective on an interesting event. I think there was a really great plot and conflict but all the interesting parts were left off of the page. First of all, no conflict happens until the very end of the book. Most of the book is setting the scene, and it’s overkill. We follow Eileen day after day and it doesn’t seem to have a point. I am literally begging for conflict by the time it finally comes.

I don’t want to give away the conflict, but Eileen is roped into it and acts as an accomplice. It wasn’t her idea, she had no motive so we do not get to see that explored. The interesting side to me is what drove the conflict, but we never get that. Eileen is so self-obsessed that she doesn’t care why it happens, she just tags along out of loneliness and boredom. I appreciated the detail and roundness of her character, I just don’t think she was the most interesting focus of the story. It left me feeling unsatisfied as a reader.



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