Oh Eileen. You certainly are one woman people won’t easily forget should they choose to enter your story. You are dark, a little twisted and kind of creepy. I am however relishing in the freedom I now have from you Eileen. And, I certainly know Hoarder Elizabeth is rejoicing and doing a happy dance, because she’s no longer receiving constant text messages from me complaining incessantly about you. 🙂 (Is this a mark then of a good book? If it got under my skin that much, shouldn’t it be considered a good thing? In this case, I would strongly argue no, no it does not.)
Now, I’ve always been irked by those that complain after seeing a movie they did not enjoy – that they wished they had those 2 and a half hours back. There is just something about that statement that always kind of bothered me…until now. Because, well, I have to come clean and truthfully tell you I really wish for those 8 hours back spent listening to Eileen! Had the book been available to me, I might have switched to it, just so I could have sped up the time and reached the ending far sooner. But, I also have to say, it is because of the audio narration by Alyssa Bresnahan that I stayed with it until the end. (The long and bitter end.) Bresnahan embodied Eileen perfectly. When I first started listening, and heard Eileen describe herself as invisible to most, dowdy, a hater of people and of her body, but a lover of bowel movements (yes, I’ll unfortunately say more on this in a bit), Bresnahan’s voice rang so splendidly true to this character, I was rejoicing at having the opportunity to listen to it in audio. Therefore, thank you to Recorded Books for the audiobook, it is appreciated to have received it, I only wish it was a more pleasant experience for me.
I think the issues I have with Eileen rest with the description provided for it, because it didn’t turn out to be what I was expecting, based on this description: “A lonely, young woman working in a boys’ prison outside Boston in the early 60s is pulled into a very strange crime, in a mordant, harrowing story of obsession and suspense.” It was this “a very strange crime” that I was waiting for. And the suspense. And the Hitchcockian twist that was also used in its description. I waited, and waited and waited some more. But, it turns out, this strange crime isn’t the crux of the story at all. Instead, Eileen is more of a character study. The description also claims to have a “Hitchcockian” twist. I didn’t find any twists, really. Overall, Eileen is simply an exploration in the daily life of an unhappy, dark and creepy woman. It is primarily devoid of plot and I became increasingly anxious about it, because I was waiting for a twist, and a crime, both which never really fulfilled the expectation.
Instead, (and truly, Conny, on Goodreads, gives an excellent review, and is one that summarizes my own thoughts about it) Eileen is an 8 hour audio of her life, her excruciatingly unhappy, sad, and pathetic life. It is a dark and strange narration about her numerous odd habits, her hatred for her alcoholic and self-esteem crushing father, her excitement over bowel movements (her own and others), her prudishness and many other odd idiosyncrasies. It was devoid of any mystery, and any “Hitchcockian” twist, in my opinion, and it unfortunately droned on. It became rather boring to listen to and I grew increasingly anxious and frustrated for the reveal of this “strange crime”.
While in its early stages, yes, Eileen is an intriguing story with this noir-vibe to it, but after the many and repeated mentions of bowel movements and hatred for her drunken father, other people, and her own self-hatred, I became frustrated and often shouted, “Get to the Point Eileen!” This very strange crime, isn’t as strange at all, and you have to wait until the final CD for its ( highly predictable by this point) reveal. The ending does have a few more remarkable moments to it, as Eileen stuns us further with her strangeness, but by this point I was so exhausted by her, I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
For sure, Eileen does seem to be one of those books that divide people in their thoughts…because there are those that loved it and those that did not. The Washington Post is in the “loved it” camp, as they listed it in their Best Fiction Books of 2015. Patrick Anderson reviewing for WP says this about Eileen: “In this dark, Hitchockian novel, Eileen Dunlop — an endearing misfit who works in a boys’ prison outside Boston in the early ’60s — is clearly headed for disaster. But even when it arrives, in predictable violence, the reader can only gape in awe.”
Perhaps had I gone into reading Eileen with the understanding that this was more of a story about this strange and odd woman, I might have had a different opinion about it, but I honestly don’t think so? One other thing that ran through my mind the entire time I listened to Eileen, was that she would make a perfect mate for Anakana Schofield’s Martin John. 😉
(A book that had me thinking about Hitchcock far more than this one is The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins. Just my opinion.)
(also edited to add that I rated the story 2 stars, but the narration would be 3 stars. The narration is what kept me with this one after all.)