Book Review: Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh

3 out of 5 stars for Eileen, an intriguing yet very weird bookeileen

I will say this about houses. Those perfect neat colonials I’d passed earlier that evening on my way through X-ville are the death masks of normal people. Nobody is really so orderly, so perfect. To have a house like that says more about what’s wrong with you than any decrepit dump. Those people with perfect houses are simply obsessed with death.

The novel, which was nominated for the Man Booker Prize, has received a lot of attention in the last year. I was intrigued by the premise of this book. It follows the story of Eileen Dunlop, a twenty-four-year-old woman who lives alone with her alcoholic father and works at a boys’ prison. An older Eileen is the narrator of the story and looks back at events that passed in the week around Christmas in the 1960s. While Eileen’s external life is drab and uneventful, her inner life is complex as she is plagued by thoughts of sexual desire, remorse, depression, and self-loathing. Her outward life changes dramatically when she meets Rebecca. Eileen narrates the events that unfold after meeting Rebecca, which, within the course of one week, put her on a drastically different life path.

Eileen is full of self-loathing, but she is also a loathsome character. It is never really clear how much we, as readers, should trust the story that Eileen is telling us. Nevertheless, she paints herself as a self-absorbed twenty-four-year-old, while also assuring the reader that in her later life she became well-adjusted. I opened my review with a quote that I think exemplifies one of the main themes of the book. It explores the question of what is under the surface, what is repressed or hidden. It is a book that is at times repugnant. Eileen is obsessed with the biological functions of her body, her digestive system, her waste—in short, all that occurs under the surface of her body. In a similar way, she gives the reader a surface story, one the reader must speculate about and read into.

On the whole, this was an interesting read. It is not for the squeamish. If you can’t deal with dark themes or are easily taken aback by grotesque imagery or situations, I would pass over this one. If you like books that push the boundaries of what is “acceptable” to explore deeper themes and questions, give this one a go! I found myself thinking about it a lot in the days after I read it. It’s one that will stick with you for a while after you read it.

My copy of this book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, NetGalley and Vintage for helping me get a copy of this book.


Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

After much thought, I decided to give Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 3 out of 5 stars.

First, let me say that I was so delighted to have something new to read about the magical 626F6F78747265616D=7474747474727576707<7473world that captured my imagination for so many hours during my childhood. I was a little let down by the book on the whole because I was hoping for a work that would stand up to the magic of those first seven books. This book lacked so much of the magical world of Hogwarts. Since it is a play script, it consists mostly of dialogue with a few stage directions to set the scene. This is where the experience of reading the story falls significantly short for me. I missed the beautiful descriptions of the school, the magical creatures, the ministry of magic, and the fascinating wizard houses.

With this being said, it is only fair to judge the work by its actual format. Given that it is a play script, I had to remind myself not to expect it to be a book. It was difficult for me to hear J.K. Rowling’s voice in the work, but I think that is because I know her voice through her Harry Potter books which paint the world of Harry Potter in a way that a play script just isn’t capable of.

I enjoyed reading this piece. It was an extremely quick read (perhaps too fast-paced to really enjoy it, but again that’s due to the play format). Even if the play script didn’t completely do it for me, it was still fun to get a little glimpse of J.K. Rowling’s highly imaginative world. For the full nostalgic experience, I will have to simply re-read those old favorites.

Book Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

3.5 out of 5 stars

“Richard watched with respect as the gray water rushed and tumbled, within arm’s reach. This was not the kind of river you fell into and got out of again; it was the other kind.”

6479879Neverwhere was a very fun book. This is the second book that I’ve read by Neil Gaiman and I enjoyed it even more than the first (the first was The Ocean at the End of the Lane).

This story follows Richard Mayhew, a businessman living in London, as his life takes a very strange turn. After attempting to help an injured woman he meets on the street one night, Richard’s life begins to “fall through the cracks”. Under the city of London exists an alter-reality called London Below and Richard must go on a quest in London Below in order to find answers to his own questions and to help his new-found friends.

The book is full of colorful characters with quirky habits. It borders on scary at times but then there are moments of comic relief that add that touch of whimsy back in. Croup and Vandemar, although they are supposed to be the villains from the start, often had me laughing throughout with their ridiculous statements.

“‘What,’ asked Mr. Croup, ‘do you want?’ ‘What,’ asked the Marquis de Carabas, a little more rhetorically, ‘does anyone want?’ ‘Dead things,’ suggested Mr. Vandemar. ‘Extra teeth.'”

On the whole, I really enjoyed this book. It was suspenseful and fast-moving. I didn’t see the twist coming at the end.

I would recommend this book for anyone that likes fantasy. Gaiman builds a subterranean London that rivals other fantasy worlds. The characters in Neverwhere are fascinating and unique. The book is a quick and engulfing read.