A brainy high school senior narrates the events that led to the death of her charismatic and disturbed teacher.
I stayed up until 1:30 am last night blazing through the last 200 pages of the book, in a state of amazement (and not a little jealousy) over the superb plotting Pessl married to her delicious prose and intriguing characters.
Before you rush out and buy the book, I should admit a fondness for looooooooong reads. I would rather there be more words than less. I had a copy of Marguerite Duras’s The Lover sitting on my nightstand for three years but never picked it up because it was slim with widely spaced text. Not that I’m unable to appreciate the literary merits of the short story or novella–I adore Flannery O’Connor and have a penchant for good children’s literature–but for me, nothing compares to a thickly plotted, heavily peopled, prose-y book.
Pessl has crafted a solid story with motion and depth, with an active plot that works perfectly in tandem with her strong characters. It’s also defiantly literature–this book could never become a movie, and I have to say I’m glad of that. It reminded me of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, a book I have read several times. It has the same capacity to enthrall, using esoterica, hints of dark sexuality that never quite surface, and a misfit protagonist who stands in for the reader as observer to a world where one misstep will close the door to knowledge forever.
Unlike Tartt, who used a remote narrative voice, Pessl allows surprising moments of girlishness to surface, such as when protagonist Blue van Meer wonders if there is anything more devastating than being told that one is a bad kisser. She never loses sight of the fact that her characters are adolescents, and imbues them with an immaturity that adds an element of playfulness to the narrative.