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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

If Only I'd Known

Eileen: A Novel - Ottessa Moshfegh

A deeply unpleasant story about a young woman in America in the nineteen sixties working in a young offenders institute. Her mother is dead. Her father is an alcoholic ex-policeman. Her home life is one of unmitigated squalor. Filled with disgust for her own body, she hates her life and everyone in it. Her only pleasures are consuming laxatives and stalking one of the guards at the prison where she works.


When a new, glamorous woman comes to work at the prison, Eileen becomes infatuated and for the first time, she has a friend. The intensity of that friendship culminates in a senseless act of violence.


Repetitive, misogynistic (Can a female writer be misogynistic? On the evidence of this novel I'd say, yes) full of clumsy foreshadowing  of the 'if only I'd known' type, the novel's structure consists simply of a long, slow build up to a sudden hurried climax.


This novel made the Booker Prize short list which depresses but doesn't surprise me. I want the time back that I wasted on it.