Mini book reviews: Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh, Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz and The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura

Synopsis: The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors.

Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a buff prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes. When the bright, beautiful, and cheery Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at the prison, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. But her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.

Review: What a messy book with such unlikeable characters.

I was well and truly captured in the first chapter of this one, our main character Eileen is… different. Strange and odd but very sure of herself, both in her current life and in her past. I was intrigued to see where the book would take us.

Despite this not having being a long book, it did take me a long time to get through it. Once the initial intrigue of the start waned, it didn’t have me an enamoured as I would have liked. The character study was interesting but bleak and slow and I did feel like some of what we were learning went on for too long.

However, by the time we got to the end, I was gripped again. I didn’t see the ending coming, it was superb! ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: Almost every day, the Woman in the Purple Skirt buys a single cream bun and goes to the park, where she sits on a bench to eat it as the local children taunt her. She is observed at all times by the undetected narrator, the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. From a distance the Woman in the Purple Skirt looks like a schoolgirl, but there are age spots on her face, and her hair is dry and stiff. Like the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan, she is single, she lives in a small, run-down apartment, and she is short on money. The Woman in the Yellow Cardigan lures her to a job where she herself works, as a hotel housekeeper; soon the Woman in the Purple Skirt is having an affair with the boss. Unfortunately, no one knows or cares about the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. That’s the difference between her and the Woman in the Purple Skirt.

Review: This was interesting but a pretty standard little book about stalking, obsession & manipulation. I liked the deadpan writing style and it was an incredibly quick read.

I was hoping this one would be more unsettling but it followed a basic plot on stalking. It was good but not one I will remember. ⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: In a forgotten patch of French countryside, a woman is battling her demons embracing exclusion yet wanting to belong, craving freedom whilst feeling trapped, yearning for family life but at the same time wanting to burn the entire house down. Given surprising leeway by her family for her increasingly erratic behaviour, she nevertheless feels ever more stifled and repressed. Motherhood, womanhood, the banality of love, the terrors of desire, the inexplicable brutality of another person carrying your heart forever Die, My Love faces all this with a raw intensity. It’s not a question of if a breaking point will be reached, but rather when and how violent a form will it take?

Review: An uncomfortable and raw read. An unflinching look at a mentally unwell mother who is battling violent urges and dark inner thoughts, who is unsatisfied and angry and bored with her existence. Not a book for everyone but I really enjoyed the journey. Plus the translation was absolutely flawless! ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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