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The Night Climbers

2.98  ·  Rating details ·  297 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
When James Walker arrives at Tudor College, Cambridge, he tries to create a vague air of mystery about himself in the hope of making the right kind of friends. By accident or fate he encounters a member of the Night Climbers, a wealthy, secretive, and tantalizingly eccentric circle of undergraduates who scale the college towers and gargoyles at night in pursuit of the kind ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 3rd 2008 by Gallery Books (first published June 1st 2007)
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theres a reason i have a "books claiming to be just like secret history" shelf. and this book is it. its not a bad book; the story is engaging and fast-paced, but at every turn there are too many parallels to one of the best novels ever written without the effortless grace of tartt. it just makes me want to reread secret history. like, right now.
The Night Climbers wears its influences on its sleeve so clearly that the sole quote displayed on the cover proclaims: 'Lapped up The Secret History? Then this one's for you.' Obviously, I had to read it as soon as possible. However, now I've finished it I'm wondering about that context of that quote, and whether the reviewer who wrote it meant it as a compliment.

It's ironic that a significant element of the plot involves the protagonist forging a copy of a valuable work of art, because this boo
Jason Pettus
Jan 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(My full review of this book is much longer than GoodReads' word-count limitations. Find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)

As regular readers know, when it comes to many topics in the arts, I like to do things a little differently here at CCLaP than at many other organizations; to cite one example, as a book reviewer I deliberately try to learn as little "industry" information about the publishing world as possible, even to the extent of pur
Brett Stevens
Like most modern books, this is a search for meaning in actions done to the characters, not in their own moral evolution.

This book combines cliches from the modern success stories, and by that I mean general story ideas that were successful, patching in bits of Dan Brown, Fight Club, Bret Easton Ellis, Donna Tartt, even your bog-standard postmodern novel in the style of David Foster-Wallace (think David Mitchell).

The underlying story however is pure dime store novel: the characters do not evolve
Saleh MoonWalker
The pace of The Night Climbers is quick, electric and endlessly engaging. Despite a few missteps that present momentary hiccups in an otherwise compelling story, Stourton knowingly encapsulates the world of the privileged, the devastatingly pretty and the eternally youthful. With it, he presents both the hubris that leads to their downfall and the magnetism that allows others to willfully leap after them.
A couple weeks ago I mentioned Donna Tartt’s novel The Secret History, a book I read almost 20 years ago. If you haven’t already read it, I can highly recommend it as a compelling novel about art and literature, particularly from the Greek period. But even if this isn’t your thing, The Secret History tells an intriguing tale of friendships made and destroyed on a college campus. It’s a book that has stayed with me all these years and one I should really re-read.

Ivo Stourton’s novel The Night Cli
Jul 26, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Why did I keep reading this? I hoped the mystery/plot would outweigh the ponderous, self-serving, egotistical characters. In the end, however, I realized that I had spent too much time with despicable, shallow people. With a narrator whose only "relationships" are with anonymous prostitutes, and whose main hobby is pornography, I as a reader was hoping for some transformation by the end. What I got was a pathetic picture of Cambridge scholars with too much money and too little sense of morality, ...more
Feb 07, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was predisposed to like this story, and was disappointed to not like it much at all. The jacket/teaser copy of the book made it sound interesting - a group of college students who daringly climb the buildings around campus, at night and against college regulations. But, the reality of it was this was only a very tiny portion of the story, and the students were a group of narcisstic brats with overexaggerated worries out of proportion with the reality created by the author. Although the charact ...more
Iain Rowan
A sine wave of a reading experience - I didn't enjoy the start very much, warmed to it a little in the middle, but it lost me at the end.

It's obvious why the 'if you liked The Secret History...' comment appears, but where the characters in that book drew me in, the characters in The Night Climbers have nowhere near the same depth and complexity, and feel as if they are serving the plot, rather than their own ends.

The narrator is an outsider, but has passivity without interest, and the same prob
Apr 13, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I hated every single character in this book. James was weak & an idiot, Francis an extremely spoiled, shallow, walking cliche. I hated the things they did, what they talked about. I hated what happened & how everything turned out. The writing was good however, which is why I'm giving it 2 stars. I'd read something else by this author in hopes another story might match his writing & actually be interesting to me. We shall see.
Nov 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hab-readers
A group of Cambridge students, rich, indolent and generally unpleasant, all with emotional issues, take up climbing over the roofs of the colleges among other nefarious occupations. The outcome is not unexpected. Different but rather sordid.
There are a wide assortment of books [fictitiously:] purported to be 'The Secret History' (D. Tartt); 'The Night Climbers' is just one in a series. Before I waste any of your time: It fails. Tremendously. Probably the biggest issue is that Stouton is clearly (or, if not himself, his PR and publishers) trying to ensnare the more erudite and intellectual of contemporary literature readers. By the very nature of who would likely be attracted to the book, Stouton's writing caters more to a quick bea ...more
Lindsay Heller
Initially I gave this book four stars, but upon further reflection, I took one of them away. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy this book, because I did, and those three stars are solid. However, afterwards as I lay thinking about this book I realized that I had some major issues, particular with the ending.

'The Night Climbers' is essentially the story of James. Young, and fairly naive, James arrives at Cambridge University imagining his life will be spectacular. He's apparently read a littl
Jun 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Night Climbers by Ivo Stourton is an alluring depiction of a lush and decadent side of upper class student life at Cambridge. Of course, that life comes at a price, and perhaps that's more the crux of our story. James is a first-year student at Tudor College, so concerned that he might fall into the "wrong" set of friends that he ends up isolating himself from everyone rather well before he's even realized it. But a chance at something different literally barges into his life, giving him the ...more
Beverley Jones
I should probably declare an interest up front that, if you've seen my author page, it's obvious I have a weakness for novels that explore the wreckage of overly nostalgic University friendships!

That said I think this novel succeeds in being a sinister and absorbing tale of a group of not very pleasant people who fail to take responsibility for their own shallowness and greed. The problem is, if you've read Donna Tartt's The Secret History, as many other reviewers have commented, it's very diff
Paul Pessolano
If you are looking for something different, English in nature, and well written, you may want to take a look at this book. It is the story of four Cambridge students, James, Francis, Jessica, and Lisa. The book is written around James, but the focal point throughout the book is Francis.

Francis comes from a well to do family and is responsible for his friends extravagant lifestyle, this includes clothes, parties, drugs, and alcohol. This is all about to change when Francis's father cuts his son's
Oct 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Night Climbers is so masterfully written, and in language so dazzling, that after the first fifty pages I started searching for more work by this author. But Ivo Stourton was born in 1982 and is just getting started. Even better.

The only thing(s) keeping me from handing out that fifth star is the difficulty I initially had in separating it from Donna Tartt's The Secret History (to which this book will always be compared.) Also, references to rap and hip-hop are unexpected and jarring as the
Julia Dudek
Dec 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-reviews
On a quick walk through the bargain books at Barnes and Noble, I picked up this hardcover, The Night Climbers, intrigued initially by the poignant cover of a gargoyle perched atop a building. A quick scan of the inside flap, and I was on my way home to start the novel.

I was immediately captivated by Stourton’s use of language — I can’t recall ever having read words more expressive and entrancing, at times bringing goose bumps to my skin. The story itself is arranged beautifully as well, a comin
Sep 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lonely, introverted new student at Cambridge University is introduced to the Night Climbers when one of the members knocks on his window to escape the campus police who noticed his antics along the building walls/spires. From that moment, James is suddenly introduced to the group of four members, Michael, Jessica, Francis, and Lisa who include scaling the university towers as one of their hobbies. He is also thrust into a life of excess as it seems Francis' pockets are filled with daddy's cash ...more
Jan 26, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable read. Complicated relationships between friends make for interesting subject matter I find. I appreciated the psychology of the motivations and the narrator's inner dialogue. The characters are flawed (which I like) and sometimes unlikable or unsympathetic (which I don't mind) but in the end they just weren't interesting or dimensional enough to be truly memorable. I'm one of those readers that actually likes to have his emotions manipulated...but I didn't feel anything rather than a c ...more
Aug 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A young man at Cambridge gets involved with a group of wealthy students and their questionable activities; he's out of his depth. The operative metaphor is Hamlet's "bad quarto" -- a version of the play put together by the actor playing the minor part of Marcellus, who knew only his own lines, was pretty familiar with the lines in the scenes he was in, and only vaguely familiar with the rest of the play. Our point of view character similarly is telling a story without having been present for the ...more
Melanie Garrett
Jan 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Although I found this quite laborious in places, I did enjoy it. There was a lot to admire in the prose style, but I felt it could benefit from quite a lot of pruning as the book went on. The plot was too lean to sustain the weight of ponderous description. For this reason, it took me some time to fully appreciate the thematic strands, as I initially mistook some key elements as extraneous description.
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was a chore finishing this book. I love reading books with Oxford or Cambridge as the setting, and I guess that was the main reason for choosing this book. I never warmed to any of the characters, I found a lot of the writing ponderous. I can not recall finding any pleasure reading this, but I kept on reading as I continue thinking that there might be something on the next page, or next chapter to rescue it.
Dec 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was pretty good but had too many things that bothered me to give it 5 stars. I liked the writing, most of the time (sometimes it was too much), but I couldn't connect with any of the characters and hm yeah, I loved it until half-way through before I realized I was expecting more from the story than was actually coming. There was too much missing from it to make it good. Actually, I'm changing my review to 3 stars. Still glad I read it though.
Margot McGovern
A mixture of Brideshead Revisited, revisited and The Secret History with an English accent. I think if I hadn't read these two, I would ahve really enjoyed it, it's a good story (although the ending was a little weak) only I couldn't shake the feeling that the characters and plot were like shadows of something I'd already read.
Apr 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first it kept reminding me of The Secret History by Donna Tartt ( one of my favorite books ) so I kept comparing it (unfavorably). I would have liked it better if I had read this book first. It WAS okay, it had its moments, but I couldn't stop wishing it was something that it was not. I would not read it a second time.
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reading the preview on the outside of the book gives a dark, twisted, and worthy plot but it is all disappointment from beginning to end. What could have been an intriguing plot stuffed with historical facts and lore it killed by a common, simple, and predictable tale of three college friends misbehaving because they have no path in life to follow. One word: typical
Barry Levy
If I could I'd give it two and a half stars because it really wants to be something it is not, as in "Brideshead Revisited," "Another Country" or "The Secret History." The plot meanders. There's little momentum. And some of the characters are underdeveloped. But I was determined to finish it. And there were some twists. So... Disappointing but not unreadable.
Feb 20, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I'm slowly learning that any book compared to The Secret History will never, ever live up to that promise and the experience of reading will be even less enjoyable due to the comparison. This is a mediocre book, full of long amuteurish descriptions that often depend on brand names rather than adjectives. The end is clever, but the rest of the book is not worth slogging through to get there.
Mari Aubuchon
I ended up skipping to the end after only a few chapters. Despite comparisons, this is no Secret History. None of the characters were at all appealing or even intriguing to me. I found their acts of derring-do, which included illegal boxing, fox hunting, and smuggling unpasteurized cheese, to be as uninteresting and unpleasant as the characters themselves.
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