Tag Archives: Marisha Pessl

Review: Night Film

Night Film

Night Film
By Marisha Pessl
(Random House, Hardcover, 9781400067886, August 20, 2013. 624pp.)

The Short of It:

A completely absorbing literary thriller that’s both smart and alluring.

The Rest of It:

Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned building on a cold October night. Her death is ruled a suicide but investigative journalist Scott McGrath thinks otherwise. As the daughter of Stanislas Cordova, known for his horror films and his reclusive nature, Ashley’s mysterious death sparks the interest of many, including all of the fans who call themselves Cordovites. As Scott assembles a team to assist him in the investigation, his love of Cordova’s work and his obsession over the director himself, puts him front and center. Danger lurks everywhere and as they dig deeper into a life that has basically been in hiding for more than twenty years, the answers they find surprise them.

This novel will most likely be my favorite book of the year. I felt it within the first fifty pages and after 600+ pages, the feeling stuck This is the type of novel that makes reading an experience. I can’t deny  it, I totally ignored my family while reading this one. The kids and Hub were left to forage for food, laundry piled up and the Otter Pup tried to sit on my head to get my attention. It’s hard to say if everyone will have this same reaction. I’ve seen a few reviews and some were less enthused by it, but there was much to love.

I’ll point out just a few of the things that made this a five-star read for me:

  • Top-notch writing
  • Engaging, likable characters
  • The puzzle aspect of the story
  • It’s all dark and drizzly and the cult-horror thing worked for me
  • The inclusion of web pages, articles and the like to move the story along
  • The fact that the films within the story were all made-up yet seemed fully fleshed out
  • The back story of all the key players
  • Pessl’s ability to toss red herrings in over and over again and somehow not lose the reader along the way
  • Reading it felt absolutely forbidden which made it all the more appealing

In the midst of all this darkness, there is humor. McGrath’s self-deprecating nature made for some humorous moments and his love of the genre shines through, which makes his quest to find the truth even more plausible. it could have been edited down a bit but I didn’t mind since I ended up stretching it out for as long as I could anyway. In fact, I didn’t want it to end. As soon as I finished, I immediately had to talk about it with others who read it and that conversation even included possible casting choices for the movie, because I know it will be made into a film. Actually, I did see a listing for it on IMDb but I am not seeing it as of this writing.

That said, this entire review is based on how it made me feel while reading it. it sent shivers up my spine and there were times where I gasped out loud. It’s the type of book that will make you fall in love with reading all over again. I will say this, the inclusion of photos and news articles makes this book one that you want to read in print. Turning the page and seeing an obituary is quite startling. I don’t think you’d have the same reaction if someone just read it to you (audio) and I am not sure how those pages would translate in e-book form.

If you pick it up, let me know. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Library Thing
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl

My book group met last night to discuss Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl. Let me tell you, it was a lively discussion! Where do I even start? Here’s the summary from Penguin:

Blue van Meer is the precocious only daughter of a dashing and scholarly father. After her mother’s death in a car accident when Blue is six, they hit the road together, traveling between her father’s ever-changing teaching positions in obscure college towns. While Blue’s intellectual gifts have been nurtured by her devoted father, she has never had a real home or friends. Instead, she has been raised on her father’s voice and on the literature and political history that he thrives on.

Enter Hannah Schneider and the Bluebloods, an enigmatic clique at St. Gallway, the private school Blue enters for her senior year. Hannah is the gorgeous, mysterious mentor to a select group of St. Gallway seniors, and she invites dutiful and shy Blue to join them. A film studies teacher, Hannah is alluring and unconventional, “the lone bombshell slinking into a Norman Rockwell,” who treats the students as friends and equals. For the first time in her life, Blue finds herself drawn out of the insular family world she and her father have created, and into the lives of these maverick and beautiful peers.

I can’t go too deeply into the plot without giving things away so I will focus on how I felt when I read this. Prior to my group selecting this, I knew nothing about it. I had no idea what to expect at all but I was pleasantly surprised after the first few chapters. There are many references to the “core curriculum” and as you can imagine… core curriculum for college prep includes the reading of some well known literature. Each chapter relates to the literature she is currently reading, or has recently read. I was fascinated with this aspect of the book.

Blue is a complicated character. She is often at odds with her intellect. Wanting desperately to fit in yet constantly aware that she is surrounded by those less intelligent than her. Every interaction is met with her own internal commentary on the situation. Her nicknames for people, the references she makes about people, etc. Much of this I found to be quite humorous.

Her father’s banter, also a source of entertainment, made me even more curious about him. In the beginning I was charmed by their relationship. It was clear that he was dragging around an unwilling participant, but it was also clear that she realized her role in his little adventures and went along with them.. for the most part.

The other characters in the book were not as interesting and I often questioned their placement in the book. Hannah, the teacher that befriends Blue is like a torn flag, flapping in the wind. You want to take her down, smooth her out… do something with her but I didn’t get a good feel for who she was and what she wanted in life. The students that Blue hangs out with, were interesting as a whole, but not as individuals. I wonder if that was the author’s point.

Overall, I felt the book was long. Very long. Over 500 pages with the story getting interesting at around page 300. When we discussed it as a group, no one seemed to have issues with the open ended quality of the storyline. I thought that was interesting. Its cleverness seemed to outweigh anything else. We also did not expect this to be a mystery of sorts.

If I can make one suggestion to you, it would be to give yourself plenty of time to read this. I did not pace myself properly and ended up rushing towards the end in order to finish it in time for my meeting. Spread it out over a few weeks if possible. There is just so much going on and so many details to pay attention to.

If you want to check out the bizarre website for the book click here. Be sure to click on all the clues.

For the reading guide, click here.