Book Review: The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis

Title: The End of Eddy

Author: Edouard Louis

Genre: Literary Fiction

Number of Pages: 208

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes

Trigger Warning(s): Sexual Assault, Child Abuse, Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, Domestic Abuse

The End of Eddy is a bleak autobiographical novel about a young French boy growing up gay in a white trash community. The main character wants desperately to be a ‘tough guy,’ not the effeminate punching bag that his peers love to torment. In his small industrial town, the bigotry and ignorance of the citizens is overwhelming and almost everybody drinks and engages in different forms of delinquent behavior to escape their dead-end lives.

Eddy comes to expect being beaten up at school regularly and he’s ridiculed when he gets caught engaging in sexual acts with an older boy in a shed. He desperately wants to escape his hometown and he tries dating women but can’t escape the truth of who he is. At the end, he does leave but whether his life actually gets better or just stays on the same downward spiral is ambiguous.

This book is sad and disturbing and very matter of fact about the behavior it portrays. Nobody is particularly likable, including Eddy himself. It was well-written, but I can’t say I enjoyed reading it. It stressed me out. I did appreciate how it went into the darker elements of the main character’s personality and didn’t just portray him as a complete victim with no agency or unpleasant behaviors of his own.

I felt some of the events in this book were too grotesque; the depravity of the characters was overwhelming and there was a whiff of classism to the author’s scathing depiction of ‘the working class.’ There was at least one point where he was like ‘the working class do this’ and I was like WHAT? I grew up in a working-class family and we are nothing like those inbreds.

I’m really sorry that the author grew up in a family like this but there’s more to being from a blue-collar background than simply being racist, sexist, homophobic, drunk, and appallingly inarticulate. The ending was also very abrupt- it felt like there should have been a follow-up book (like with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) to pick up where it left off. But there wasn’t.

I think one of the best things about this book was the atmosphere it created using spare prose. I really got a sense of the claustrophobia of that community, of the abject poverty and squalor. Edouard Louis is an interesting writer and I’d like to read more of his work someday, because clearly, I’m a masochist who likes reading huge downers.

I bought History of Violence and Who Killed My Father on my Kindle and I’ll be keeping an eye out for A Woman’s Battles and Transformations when it comes out. He’s one of those people (like Augusten Burroughs) whose experiences are weirdly fascinating (although in Louis’ case, The End of Eddy is fiction, and I don’t know how much of it is factual) even though reading their work is like watching a train wreck.

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