• Current Reads

      Life after Life Jill McCorkle
      This Is Your Captain Speaking Jon Methven
      The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont
      Snark David Denby
      Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
  • Popular Tags

  • Recent Reflections

  • Categories

  • Moleskine’s All-Time Favorites

  • Echoes

    The HKIA brings Hong… on [788] Island and Peninsula 島與半…
    Adamos on The Master and Margarita:…
    sumithra MAE on D.H. Lawrence’s Why the…
    To Kill a Mockingbir… on [35] To Kill A Mockingbird…
    Deanna Friel on [841] The Price of Salt (Carol…
    Minnie on [367] The Rouge of the North 怨…
  • Reminiscences

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,087,705 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,709 other followers

[839] Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh


“I had no compassion for anyone unless his suffering allowed me to indulge in my own.” (Tuesday, 117)

The story of young Eileen is told from the gimlet-eyed perspective of the now much older narrator, who looks back to the days leading to Christmas 1964. The 24-year-old Eileen Dunlop was trapped at home taking care of her alcoholic father whose embarrassing indiscretions are the talk of the neighborhood. The house is filthy and squalid; his drinking, as she puts, places stain on her as a young person, making her tense and edgy.

But she is far from a likable person. At work in the juvenile correctional facility, she puts on a dead mask and takes care to show no emotion. In trying to pursue the dignity of which her life has deprived her, she becomes neurotically self-absorbed and insecure. She suffers from severe sexual and emotional repression, prone to obsessive behavior. She distracts her lust after the muscular prison guard by shoplifting. She entertains eerie thoughts and is wallowed in filth. She is motivated by one goal: to flee the squalor of home and move to New York City.

Didn’t she know I was a monster, a creep, a crone? How dare she mock me with courtesy when I deserved to be greeted with disgust and dismay? (Saturday, 57)

Self-loathing is the constant theme, and Eileen shows herself to be repulsive. The book is more a character study than thriller, although it has a short time span on the days leading to the surreal event. There’s a creepy Hitchcock touch to parts of the novel. A lot of it is played in Eileen’s mind—it’s ugly, disgusting, but also riveting. When that fateful event she keeps alluding to finally takes place, it’s like a thud. It’s unsettling but also feels unreal.

260 pp. Penguin. Trade Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]

2 Responses

  1. I read this a few years back “pre-pub” and absolutely loved it. What an interesting but, disturbed character Eileen was. The author has just released a short story collection which I need to try.

    • She’s not likable but very engaging as a narrator. I felt drawn into the claustrophobic world that she lives in. She is constantly self-conscious but strives to live by her desire. It’s no doubt she’s become part of that snafu at the end.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: