October 13, 2016
MarkBernstein.org
 

Eileen

Eileen
Ottessa Moshfegh

(order)

(October 13, 2016)

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, this novel takes a long time to get going and, when it finally does move beyond exposition, it heads for places that are neither pleasant nor surprising.

Eileen is twenty four, she lives in a depressing small town in central Massachusetts with her father. He’s an alcoholic ex-cop, and Eileen she does clerical work in a private reformatory. The prose is solid and unshowy. So is Eileen, when she’s not enacting perversity.

I’d always believed that my first time would be by force, Of course I hoped to be raped by only the most soulful, gentle, ­handsome of men, somebody who was secretly in love with me–Randy, ideally.

I suppose one’s reaction to the novel depends on whether you regard Eileen’s attitude as charming or simply dense. I’d have bailed on this book without the prize nomination, and I’d have bailed again if not for the terrific reviews. I think the book and I got off on the wrong foot.