Special Topics In Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (Book Review)

special topics

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl is a well written, prose driven novel of murder and the life of a unique young woman. I searched for this novel after reading Night Film by Marisha Pessl last year. I absolutely loved Night Film, it was one of my favorite novels of last year and perhaps of all time. So I admit I came into reading Special Topics in Calamity Physics with very high expectations and based on the reviews I had read, I felt that I would not be disappointed. I was wrong.

Blue van Meer is a brainy, eccentric daughter of a academic professor who is shepherded from one academic position to another as her father is unable to stay in one place for very long. Whether from personal or professional situations. Blue is unable to maintain friendships for very long and actually sees no need for them. She prefers to live in her own world of literary, cinematic and philosophical thoughts.

This changes when Blue and her father arrive at the elite St. Galloway School and she is taken in by the strange clique of students known as the Bluebloods, led by the faculty member Hannah Schneider. As Blue navigates this new terrain of friends and college life, she is thrown into a mystery of an accidental drowning and a hanging which neither appears to be accidental at all. Secrets and private live become unraveled as Blue peels back the layers of lies that make of the Bluebloods and herself.

Marisha Pessl’s writing style is haunting and lyrical. Its as if you were seated, relaxed listening to a smooth jazz quintet playing so when the shocks in the story line do come, you are unprepared and taken aback. The only problem for me is that in Special Topics in Calamity Physics  those came to rarely and instead, I am left, lulled to sleep or left restless. It is a novel that I could pick up, put down, and then pick up again. A pleasant read but never really captivating me. I found myself reading it for the style of writing far more than the story itself.

The sad part is that had I read this book first, I would never have picked up Night Film.

Well written but disappointing at the same time.


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