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There’s something about Moshfegh’s writings that draws me toward it and makes me want to keep reading it without taking a break. No wonder I finished reading this book in less than three days only. Like all her other protagonists, we meet a woman who has chosen a life of seclusion from other people with various existential questions popping up in her head. However, unlike her other younger characters, here we meet a curious woman who is 72 years old. Age does a lot to what and how the character can be like and certainly, that is reflective in Moshfegh’s sketch of Vesta Gul. With an age of experience to retrospect, we meet Vesta and her dog Charlie in the woods discovering a note of the death of someone named Magda. From then on, Vesta sets on a mission to find more about Madga, give her her hand, the justice, and the love which her life may not have given to her. The book not only explores womanhood but also makes an intelligent commentary on the purpose of a murder mystery novel. With Moshfegh’s dark humour, it almost feels like a satire on writing a murder mystery story; a story full of blame-game, doubts, suspicions, the thrill to find the person out who is guilty. Almost every time, it is the other that we are in search of in a murder mystery story. Moshfegh plays with that idea and weaves a thriller that will keep you wondering until the last page as to what will happen? Who is who? and other such questions that piques your curiosity as Vesta sets herself in solving Magda’s case. This was a much better book than her previous one, I have to say. I liked how likeable Vesta was which doesn’t happen in Moshfegh’s books since she draws up unlikeable characters. I felt close to Vesta. I loved the setting of the novel. Nothing would be perfect for a thriller than a secluded wintry town with little people and barely any idea of when days change from one to another. I cannot wait for Moshfegh to write more books. I hope she keeps experimenting with characters and their lives as she did in this one.
As always Moshfegh's writing style is perfect and gorgeous and stunning all at the same time. It would be an understatement to say one should read the book for the poetic style itself. The way she describes plots is incredible. Although I loved the overall book there was something off about it in the plot which didn't quite make up like her other books. I found the horror element missing for some reason.
The story revolves around just incident wherein our protagonist, Vesta finds a note in the way while walking her dog, Charlie, where she comes across a dead body of girl named Magda. The name is as stated in it. It further says - Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't the one who write the note.
The protagonist is obsessed with the note and totally clueless of what she's upto. Instead of revealing the note to the authorities she decides making a story about Madga.
As the story progresses, the reader is left wondering how reliable a narrator Vesta is, which parts of what she tells you are real, if any, and which are part of her narrative or the story she has invented in her head. No one's much aware of her, she has a fewer friends and less social life.
There are not many characters in the book which is odd and weird, which in turn ofcourse is the style Moshfegh specialises in but the narrative again has the same problem with less opinions or just glimpse of opinions of other characters. I hardly remember any other from that of Charlie the dog in entire story which made it frustrating at a point. Although the writing style is all anyone can read the book for the plot has some major problems in the book.
The unreliable narrator of Ottessa Moshfegh's third novel is seventy-two-year-old Vesta Gul, a widow who lives alone in the woods in a lakeside cabin. When walking her dog, Charlie, she finds a note on the ground which says: "Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body." However, there is no body to be found nor any evidence of violence in the nearby area, so Vesta decides that instead of contacting the local police she will keep the note and make her own investigations. And so begins a very strange and unsettling story where we see Vesta, a woman who was controlled and undermined by her late husband and suffering from past traumas of her own, set out on a journey to recreate in her mind what she thinks might have happened to Magda and how the young woman might have met her death. However, once Vesta has started on her journey and has conjured up a life and a whole personality for the dead woman, she (and the reader) begins to have trouble working out what is real and what is fabrication. And as the story unravels and we enter into the mind of a woman who has become disassociated from those around her, we become witness to her alienation, her paranoia and her mental disintegration.
A clever and compelling story which captures the mind of a woman who has difficulty in differentiating fact from fiction and whose history is gradually revealed to the reader as she struggles to process what has happened to her - both in the present and in the past. Although I thought this was a compelling read and started and finished it in practically one sitting, I found it a rather troubling story and although darkly funny in places it was one that left me feeling rather unsettled - and the scene towards the end, involving an animal, was something I found very upsetting and although I can understand the author wanted something startling to demonstrate the unravelling of Vesta's mind, I feel sure she could have created something better - but obviously I can't discuss this further without revealing spoilers. So, in summary, a clever and thought-provoking story (and not a murder mystery as one might think by the blurb) but one that has left me feeling rather confused about how to rate it fairly by Amazon's star system - therefore I've given it three stars but I've changed my mind several times about the rating - whilst reading the book and even during the writing of this review - and may come back and change it once the story has had time to settle.
Where to start with Vesta, eh? She is a sort isn't she, I think she'd be described or even ascribe, as a wily old woman. She's sprightly for seventy odd, didn't like Walter too much. But wow, not sure how to describe this book but Vesta finds a note in the woods next to her secluded cabin in the woods, even though she has neighbours, but not neighbourly neighbours but the atmosphere was all engulfing. I raced through is in a day and a bit, after I'd started and finished The Moon's a Balloon by David Niven.
If I could add infinity stars, I would. But it, borrow it but read it.
I was so excited by the premise of this book when I pre-ordered it. I expected weird, but I also expected a story. With the exception of two somewhat creepy scenes, the plot doesn't really progress beyond the first few pages. The majority of the book is stream of consciousness from the narrator, a 72 year-old widow with regrets, loneliness and a touch of incoherence. She creates a whole fantasy murder mystery around Magda. Also, anything with animal cruelty is an automatic "don't read" for me, so I wish I knew. I wish I could get my money back.
I enjoyed several of Moshfegh's previous books, and was enthused about reading this one. I was heartily disappointed..!! This book was disjointed, rambling, and actually made no sense. Vesta is an elderly widow who recently moved across the country. She purchased a former Girl Scout camp with lots of land. Charlie, a mutt she adopted is largely her only company. She stumbled across a note during her daily walk in the woods, and she her mind goes on a wild goose chase., creating scenarios that have no basis in reality. You get glimpses of Vesta's former life, her long and unhappy marriage to her deceased husband, Walter and so on. There were glimmers of goodness here and there, but largely, I had to struggle to finish this. Not Moshfegh's best work by a long shot.
I didn't understand it. Purchased due to the reviews. Abstract piece of garbage with no point. Oh, and spoiler alert, she kills her dog for no reason. If there was any deep meaning, it was too deep for me.
I read this book in an entire day and was so disappointed at the end... the part about the dog was needlessly gruesome and half of the book felt like fillers in between conversation. I was really excited to read this but it's a solid 2/10. Don't recommend if you're looking for a mystery novel.
This book is great! I think Magda is Vesta. Poor Vesta’s mind is unraveling at an accelerating pace. A beautiful woman who is as held an emotional captive by her controlling husband.
I don’t even know if the note she found really exists because Vesta is a very unreliable narrator who is losing her mind probably from years of the horrible domestic abuse and loneliness and infidelity inflicted upon her by her stern German husband. Both she and Walter are immigrants albeit from different countries. She is passive aggressive and the cast of characters she concocts keep changing. Her deceased husband gaslighted her with his cruel mind games. He gave her sedatives to keep her docile. He was a Nazi sympathizer. Vesta speaks of abortions and she seems to have had at least one. Walter had his ways in dealing with her pregnancies. “It was messy but necessary”.
She is a bitter and snobby elderly woman who fancies she is above other people and describes them with cynical bitterness. She is living practically off the grid with her dog and Pastor Jimmy’s pontifications on her old radio. Then one of the people in her psychotic world tells her Pastor Jimmy is dead and they are reruns? The time is sometime in the past since she does her library researches while trying to make sense of the note she claims to have found with Ask Jeeves which disappeared by 2005. Then there is the black catsuit she buys. I found that to be odd to say the least.
Taken literally the book makes no sense but I see the similarity of Madgna herself and Vesta.
Charlie’s death is horrendous but Vesta is not a sane person. The end brings the story to a horrible and sad end. But not all in life is pristine or perfect and the ending is as it should be.
This is not an easy or fun read but it is classic Ottessa Moshfegh who is one of my favorite contemporary fiction writers. Although I am close to Vesta’s age everything Moshfegh writes is so much more than Millennial drivel. I would love to see Moshfegh do a live reading of this book which was written before her last book and kept in a drawer. I am so happy she published it. I will read anything Moshfegh writes. She will go down as one of the greatest writers of the 21st century.