A few pages into this book , there was only one thought that was go on and on in my mind – Eileen Dunlop is one suspense fiction heroine who you won’t forget easily .
I have read shelf-loads of books in the suspense genre , but none of the heroines stood out to me as Eileen Dunlop does . Almost all the heroines have been beautiful , intelligent , competent , compassionate …. the list can go on . And yes , damsels in distress – eventually .
But Eileen is not like the others even remotely –
*Plot blurb starts here for those of you who want to dive right into the review*
Eileen is an insecure young woman who day-dreams about life in the Big City but is too preoccupied with
a.) running the errands / caring for her alcoholic father who seems to be on the verge of lunacy = getting him his bottle of gin from the local alcohol store ; locking up his shoes in the boot of the car so that he doesn’t wander off in his perpetual drunken stupor only for the town police force to bring back Father Dunlop with some polite words about needing to look after him ; keeping his gun for him to prevent him for turning it on the passers-by while she is at work .
b.) perversely fantasizing about nearly everybody she has come in contact with = fantasizing sexcapades of brawny prison guards & imagining homosexual encounters between office ladies who are her colleagues at the boys’ correctional institution . Even the adolescent boys in the institution too were no far from her fantasies .
During the weekends though, for a change , she maintains a stakeout of one of the guards ‘ houses whom she crushes on . Or maybe goes for a movie or two . Sometimes , she goes on a shoplifting or shop-damaging spree .
When the beautiful , stylish and charismatic Rebecca St John starts out as a counselor , Eileen , characteristic of her hatred for beautiful women , does not take too well to her – she takes Rebecca to be her rival for her ( almost-null ) chances with Randy ( that guard whose house she stakes out every weekend ) . But Rebecca seems to want to befriend her genuinely – which is too much for Eileen who hasn’t heard a friendly word from anybody for a long time . She wants to rise up to the demands of the friendship which Rebecca seems to be offering .
How far can she go to keep Rebecca happy whom she sees as a ticket to all glamorous things in life ? Be an accomplice to a crime ?
Man Booker Prize Nominee ( 2016 )
Shirley Jackson Award Nominee for Novel ( 2015 )
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee For Fiction ( 2015 )
The Center For Fiction First Novel Prize Nominee For Longlist ( 2015 )
Eileen can be a character study – that is to say a good two – thirds of the novel , the author lets the readers to know Eileen really well by making her the narrator . We come to know the people in her life – her alcoholic father and the colleagues at her workplace . She also touches upon several significant memories of her early adulthood and her childhood . In recapping her memories about her 20′ s , we get to know about her regressive tendencies and her inner self – the one which she hadn’t given a glimpse of , to anybody till now .
As the old saying goes , still waters run deep – Eileen’s facade , which she prefers to call the ‘death mask’, perfectly conceals a young woman who is consumed by self loathing . She is insecure about her appearance and at 24 , still had not come to terms with her womanliness . Her habits are freakish to say the least – sometimes they are downright distasteful . To put it simply , Eileen is a weirdo – her mental make-up has more to do with this than her physical appearance .
Eileen has this absurd idea that Rebecca ‘ s friendship would transform her inside out – she would become like the other girls , whom she hated with a passion for their charisma and beauty . Doesn’t it seem a bit absurd and self – centered that Eileen relies on one of those beautiful young women whom she had learnt to hate to help her transformation ?
“In time we hate that which we often fear ” – William Shakespeare
In that sense , Eileen’s obsession with her self – her anguish , her dreams , her perverted ideas , her views on herself almost border on insanity . And her obsession with Rebecca is also equally unhealthy .
The one good thing that came out of her entanglement with Rebecca was that , she was finally shoved into action to move to the Big City . Let me not further dwell on the plot – line but I hope you got sufficiently intrigued with Eileen .
Eileen is an unlikely heroine but she is one of a kind – one whom you cannot miss . She is a rarity whom we do not come across often in fiction . She is one heck of a story-teller and the story is equally interesting as Eileen herself . Go , grab a copy of Eileen soon – this is one book which is definitely making to my list of best reads this year .
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Until the next post then…
Get Eileen here – Eileen (Longlisted for Man Booker Prize 2016)