Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
Now don’t let this put you off BUT I really needed a shower reading this book. There was something about it that made me feel grotty – and a little sick. If I could scrub Eileen’s house from top to bottom with turps, I might well have felt better.
This is a dark, morbid ride Readheads but given it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016 (and the Gordon Burn Prize 2016 and CWA New Blood Dagger Award) it is worth jumping on board – just buckle up. It’s one of those books, like the ride at a carnival that kind of makes you feel ill, but you love it anyway. You know?
We meet Eileen Dunlop at Christmas time completely devoid of any season cheer. She is a young woman caught between surviving life with her alcoholic father and her dreary work as a secretary at a boy’s prison, and she escapes the drudgery by daydreaming, shoplifting, wearing her dead mother’s clothes and trying to out drink her deranged father by night.
It. Is. Bleak.
Enter, shiny Christmas angel Rebecca Saint John who is a bright breezy antidote to beaten down Eileen. Beautiful, stylish and accomplished, the psychologist Saint John arrives at the prison and immediately starts charming Eileen, the guards and the boys. She is the light to Eileen’s dark and you find yourself hoping ‘is this just the elixer that our poor Eileen needs?’
Well, err, no. Eileen finds herself up to her eyeballs in a crime so crazy it even surpasses her own wild and troubled dreams and it quickly takes the shine of Rebecca and everything she represents. I won’t give anything away about it because it is worth finding out for yourself.
All I will say is that it is all rather clever and ends with a bang and I would not be surprised if you need a good hot shower afterwards. In fact, I am certain about it…..
But that is just my two cents worth.