Hello, Don’tRead faithful! Sorry about the radio silence–my illness took a turn for the worse just after that last post–I haven’t read A THING in the past week. But my lovely wife, whom I have now infected, read this book and loved it so much she wrote this stellar review of the whole thing! You can check out her beauty blog here. Look forward to a more regular posting schedule soon!
Night Film is the sophomore effort from Marisha Pessl (who you may remember from Special Topics in Calamity Physics fame). It’s a beautiful literary thriller about a journalist’s search for answers about a young woman’s suicide.
WHY I PICKED IT UP:
I saw it on a table in Barnes and Noble and thought the cover looked interesting. I haven’t read Pessl’s first book and didn’t realize who the author was until I was about half way through Night Film.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT:
This book did a remarkable thing in that reading it takes the reader on a journey that parallels the journey taken by the lead character. The narrative scoops you up out of your comfortable, reasonable sense of reality and transports you to place where irrational explanations seem perfectly logical, only to deposit you back into your old reality once again with a feeling of longing for thrills lost to last night’s dreaming. Night Film is very hard to put down; I haven’t read anything quite this enthralling in a while so discovering it was a real treat for me. Also Pessl used a very cool technique by incorporating news articles and screen captures which provided useful exposition in an engaging way without stopping the plot to go back and fill in the blanks. There’s also an interactive element to the book apparently, which involves a decoder app from iTunes, but I didn’t find out about it until after I finished the book. I never downloaded it but it’s supposed to unlock extra content, so FYI if you pick this one up that’s available if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER:
The one thing that bugged me was the denouement. It’s hard to write about this book without spoiling some of the plot but there is a section that is just non-stop, edge of your seat nail biting tension that builds and builds until you can hardly stand it. It’s a hell of a climax, but it’s followed by, in my opinion, too lengthy of a denouement. This is important though, because as I mentioned earlier reading Night Film is a journey in and of itself which parallels the main character’s journey. It explores our willingness to believe in the unbelievable, which reminded me of Joseph Campbell’s argument for the need of new myths. Basically, the myths of our ancestors are no longer relevant today however as a society we need mythology and we look for it, even when it is not to be found. So the lengthy denouement, although tedious while you’re reading it, actually leads up to a second sort of climax which ends the book with the unwritten question; what are you willing to believe? Do you actually want to solve the mystery (no matter what the truth turns out to be) or have you already decided on an answer? However, only after finishing the book in its entirety does the denouement seem to fit into place, so in that sense I think it could have been a bit shorter or written so that it didn’t feel like such a let down after the initial climactic thrill ride.
RESULT: I READ IT!
In case you can’t tell by now, I LOVED this book. It’s brilliant, captivating, and it left me wanting more. I wish I could go back and read it for the first time all over again! Since I can’t I guess the next best thing will be to pick up Special Topics in Calamity Physics.