Date Published: 2015
Book Author: Ottessa Moshfegh
Summary reviewed by:
Bachelor of Arts (BA), University Of California, Santa Barbara 2019
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Secrets Lurk in a Cold New England Town: Step Inside and Shiver! Set in the grim town of X-ville, Massachusetts, the novel "Eileen" unfurls a story drenched in despair and furtive desire. Eileen Dunlop, a young woman warped by her upbringing and trapped in a life of drudgery, works at a boy's prison. The bitter winter cold mirrors her frozen soul, and the sense of entrapment drives her towards escape, yet where to? Her days are filled with fantasizing and scheming, mirroring a distorted self-image.
A glimmer of hope arrives in the form of Rebecca, a beautiful and enigmatic stranger, who enters Eileen's life and ignites a spark of excitement. But not all is what it seems, as the mundane twists into the sinister, propelling Eileen into a world far darker than she ever imagined. Beneath the surface of X-ville lies a throbbing underbelly of treachery and malevolence. Ottessa Moshfegh paints a vivid portrait of loneliness, repression, and angst, with prose that clings to you like an unsettling dream. Enter Eileen's world if you dare, but be warned - it is a journey into the shadows of the human soul.
Spoilers (click here to reveal spoilers)
The culmination of "Eileen" reveals a shocking betrayal. Rebecca, the beacon of hope in Eileen's life, is revealed to be a criminal mastermind behind a plot that unveils dark secrets within the prison. The suspense tightens as Eileen, trapped in a web of deceit, becomes complicit in a crime she never expected to commit. Driven by desperation and twisted friendship, the climax unfolds with relentless force. Ultimately, Eileen flees, abandoning her past and escaping into a life of anonymity. The ending resonates with a haunting echo, as the memory of X-ville lingers like a cold chill, a place of lost innocence and corrupted dreams.
Eileen Dunlop: A young woman trapped in a bleak existence, values escape and transformation; her theft of small items reveals her underlying rebellion.
Rebecca Saint John: Enigmatic and charming, she values power and manipulation; her influence over Eileen, leading her into crime, illustrates her cunning nature.
Eileen’s Father: A retired cop, alcoholic, and mentally unstable; values his twisted perception of love; his cruel treatment of Eileen portrays his warped affection.
Isolation: Explored through Eileen’s loneliness, demonstrated by her lack of friendships and troubled family relationships.
Obsession and Desire: Highlighted in Eileen’s longing for escape and her fixation on her appearance, as seen in her constant scrutiny of herself.
Betrayal and Manipulation: Embodied in Rebecca’s use of Eileen, epitomized in the crime they commit together.
Identity and Self-Loathing: Illustrated in Eileen’s struggle with her self-image and her desire to become someone else, reflected in her fantasies and eventual escape from X-ville.