Bookmarks Magazine's Reviews > Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
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Feb 05, 09


With a murder that occurs in the opening pages and a narrator who joins an elite clique of students, Special Topics bears resemblance to Donna Tartt's 1992 classic, The Secret History__as the novel's publisher is more than happy to remind us. Critics call this comparison a publicity coup, as the two novels differ greatly in narration, orchestration, and tone. Organized as a "Great Books" course, the novel requires careful attention (and literary knowledge) from its readers, especially when Blue spouts esoteric tidbits. Although most critics were utterly compelled by Marisha Pessl's debut novel, a few thought it mean-spirited and too smart for its own good. "A 500-page headache is as possible as a bracing joyride," notes the New York Times.

This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

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