Sinister and full of unnerving twists, Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel Eileen which was on the Man Booker shortlist last year will have you spellbound. Not surprisingly, it’s caught the eye of top Hollywood producer Scott Rudin who plans on making a screen adaptation.
Nothing is what it seems in this novel. ‘I looked like a girl you’d expect to see on a city bus, reading some clothbound book from the library about plants or geography, perhaps wearing a net over my light brown hair,’ begins the novel. But we soon realise that 24-year-old Eileen Dunlop from a Boston suburb is anything but that.
Unbathed and addicted to laxatives, her mind is constantly filled with horrific suicide and murder fantasies while she keeps a dead mouse in her glove compartment as company. Called back from college to look after her dying mother, she now works as a prison clerk and lives with her abusive, alcoholic father – a former cop. She dreams of running off to New York, but it’s 1964 and things weren’t so easy back then. The novel is told in hindsight by a wiser, now 70-year-old Eileen.
She has no love life, and the only source of attraction seems to be a prison guard she begins to stalk on weekends. But life radically changes when she meets the ‘tall redheaded’ Rebecca, an attractive Harvard graduate who arrives to counsel the inmates. Eileen is smitten by her and the two develop a deadly bond that changes the course of the story, with this psychological thriller ending in the most unexpected way.
Gone Girl, eat your heart out!
(Published by Penguin Random House)
By Farhad J. Dadyburjor, Mumbai