Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh (Paperback edition published in 2016 by Penguin Books)
You won’t like Eileen. Her personal hygiene regime, or lack thereof, and twisted relationship with food barely scratches the surface of aspects of her character that will gross you out as reader.
Oddly, it won’t stop you turning the pages, because her story is morbidly fascinating. And then, about three quarters through you’ll have it all figured out… except you won’t, of course.
The novel is set in Boston in 1964. Eileen, who often refers to herself as invisible, is a clerk at the county prison for juveniles. And if you think her day job is robbing her of any joy, her home life is not much better. She lives with her drunkard father whose tongue is sharp and abusive.
Her crush on one of the prison guards bring some relief to her dull routine of work, shoplifting and hiding in her room until Rebecca, a new colleague enters the narrative. Eileen is mesmerised by her, and this is where her story of how she runs away from her dreary life to start over, begins.
But there’s more. Once the revelation sinks in, we also get a glimpse into the kind of abuse that happens behind closed doors. And it is as revolting and it is frightening.
If you loved Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, you’ll want to read this artfully narrated and skilfully paced mystery.
Eileen was shortlisted for the 2016 MAN Booker Prize, and based on the fact that it hooks you and has a marvellous twist makes that nomination, in my opinion, totally justified.