Thursday, February 2, 2017

Eileen : A Dark Comedy About Dreary Existence

Eileen, the 2016 Man Booker shortlisted novel by Ottessa Moshfegh is not the kind of book that normally appeals to me. It is the story of a woman who has very low self esteem, living a dismal and pathetic existence. Nothing dramatic happens in the first three quarters, except routine, dreary existence of her, always wallowing in self pity. But still, while reading it, I wasn't able to put the book down. There's something about this dark comedy that touches and make you empathetic.

Eileen is a young women doing a boring job in a children's prison (correctional facility is not an appropriate name for it, as told in the story). A motherless child, she lives with her drunkard and senile father, in a dilapidated home, performing her daughterly duties like a slave, albeit hating him and wears her dead mother's ill fitting clothes. She is a social disaster, never been loved or cared by any and her self pity and self indulgence never let her engage in social relations. Her plan to run away from her home in search of a better future never materialises.

All this changed when one day a new staff is appointed at the prison. Rebecca is just the opposite of her. She's pretty, a great talker, well dressed, well mannered and most importantly, she is friendly with Eileen. Eileen is ready to go to any lengths for maintaining her first chance of starting a social relation. But what is the true intention of Rebecca?

The book is narrated in Eileen's point of view. Like the mental state of her, the narrative is a long rant that moves in times and coils around. But in spite of the wallowing, repetitive nature of it, the narration has a charm that makes it hard to put down the book. It is an easy read that took me just hours to finish.

More than the plot, the author gives priority to the premise. She makes us live Eileen's existence, which believe me, is rather uncomfortable. But the subtle black humor and a satisfying resolution, which is impossible to see coming, makes it a worthy read.

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