As debut novels go, Ottessa Moshfegh's Eileen could be considered a prodigious success. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award.
Eileen is the story of a young woman who is very unhappy and works at a prison during the 1960s. The main story takes place during the most bitter winter Massachusetts has ever seen, when Eileen has just turned twenty four years old. While Eileen's life can sometimes seem mundane, Eileen herself is anything but. The first person narrative flows easily largely because Eileen is her own favorite subject, and she is an inveterate over-sharer; consequently the reader knows an incredible number of little details about her life.
As well as being a book about a woman stuck in a dead-end job in a town she doesn't like, it is also a book about a woman struggling to attain her freedom. There are not many options in 1964 for a woman who is not yet married, but whom society feels able to tell that it's about time she was. She is caught between getting to know herself, how she feels, her place in the world, yet feeling that as a woman it is not her place ot decide any of these things herself. As well as a biopic of a confused and disenchanted woman, Eileen is also the story of all headstrong women of her era who were trying to forge out an independence for themselves that society was not really ready to afford them.