Most reviewers will just tell you what the book is about and what they like and dislike about it. We do that as well, but this winter we got a little bored with that (get it, bored). We want to put the book and the reviewer through the ringer, like no one has done before. So we welcome you to Novel Interrogation Tactics. Our questions might seem a little strange, maybe even random, but a good interrogation is supposed to be confusing.

“People truly engaged in life have messy houses.”

What’s this book about?

Eileen is a young woman working in a prison for boys in a town she calls X-ville. The story is set during a winter in the early 60’s. She lives with her drunk father after moving back home for her dying mother. Once her mother’s gone, she’s left alone in a town that’s too small for her self-loathing. All Eileen wants is to leave X-ville, to be desired by one of the prison guards and to kill her deadbeat father. Eileen’s stuck in her dreamworld, envying everything and everyone, until Rebecca shows up at the prison as the new psychologist. In many ways, she’s the opposite of Eileen, but the two young women quickly find themselves using each other to get what they want.

Eileen is sullen to an extent that makes her very quotable. The book is exciting, always hinting at ‘the thing’ that made her leave X-ville all those years ago. I didn’t see ‘the thing’ coming, so that kept the tension going for me. The author Ottessa Moshfegh, has written one book before Eileen and has a bunch of short stories published by The Paris Review.

“Some families are so sick, so twisted, the only way out is for someone to die.”

Who would win in a fight?

If there would be a fight in this book, it would clearly happen between Eileen and Rebecca. Eileen is our main character, but Rebecca is the woman who forces the story – and Eileen – to move forward. Rebecca might be a whirlwind of a woman, complete with a big-city attitude and a lust for justice, but it’s Eileen I would be scared of. Her detachment seems to border on the psychopathic and her behavior is criminal more than once. She loves to shoplift, doesn’t mind driving drunkenly and risking her own life and that of others on a daily basis. Mix in her ‘death-mask’ stony expression and pretty disturbing thoughts and I don’t think she could ever lose.

Cringe factor: What or who was the worst?

Eileen has some issues when it comes to her body. She hides it under layer of clothes, only wearing things that belonged to her dead mother. She never cares if her clothing is too big, she just piles on more sweaters to make it seem like the clothes might be filled. What Eileen then likes to do, is not wash for a while and stew in her own filth. There are many scenes describing how Eileen enjoys the idea of smelling badly, while at the same time being scared to death that anyone might notice anything about her body. I’m not sure what made me cringe more, the fact that she’s seriously dirty or that she’s making life very hard for herself.

“Thus, I lived in perpetual fantasy. And like all intelligent young women, I hid my shameful perversions under a facade of prudishness. Of course I did. It’s easy to tell the dirtiest minds-look for the cleanest fingernails.”

Cast the adaptation

Eileen needs to be a sullen actress, someone that can play ugly, not so much in appearance but more in character. I think it might be a cool challenge for Michelle Williams, but she would need to get a lot darker and smile a lot less. Otherwise I’d like to see Brie Larson take on the role. She can give you this look that just makes you feel like the world means nothing to her. That look is what Eileen is all about.

Rebecca on the other hand needs to be someone with a pretty exterior, but someone who clearly has things to hide. I would like to see Rachel McAdams take on this role. She deserves something good after the True Detective debacle.


Esmée de Heer is head honcho over at the Bored to Death book club website, writing the daily content and making sure the site stays up and running. She's one of the founding sisters of the book club and enjoys reading and giving unsolicited love advice.

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