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The Lightness

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  2,199 ratings  ·  404 reviews
A stylish, stunningly precise, and suspenseful meditation on adolescent desire, female friendship, and the female body that shimmers with rage, wit, and fierce longing—an audacious, darkly observant, and mordantly funny literary debut for fans of Emma Cline, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Jenny Offill.

One year ago, the person Olivia adores most in the world, her father, left home f
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 16th 2020 by William Morrow (first published June 11th 2020)
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Deborah The main character never puts a label to her sexuality, but she demonstrates attraction towards both men and women (I personally ended up thinking she…moreThe main character never puts a label to her sexuality, but she demonstrates attraction towards both men and women (I personally ended up thinking she was bi). Two other main female characters have a bit of a summer romance but it's never a main focus. Several background characters (all girls) also are shown to be together, although again the book paints this as a summer fling sort of moment. (less)

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Average rating 3.42  · 
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 ·  2,199 ratings  ·  404 reviews

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Aug 17, 2020 rated it liked it
The Girls meets The Secret History meets Looking for Alaska

this was up my alley in a way that meant i almost *had* to enjoy it (at least to an extent) but, i also think the excessive similarities to the aforementioned titles caused me to spend more time comparing it to all the stories i was reminded of, rather than feel like i had found a new favorite.
Will Byrnes
An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind - Buddha
The beginning I know for sure. Once upon a time, My father went to the Levitation Center. I also know the next part: and he never came back.
Sixteen-year-old Olivia Ellis is on a mission. Her father vanished about a year ago. Not on the best of terms with her mother, she has left home and signed hersel
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Can we ever really know our parents, our friends? Can we ever really know what goes on in a relationship between two others? Where are the limitations of this human life, and what might be possible?

The Lightness asks these questions in the form of a coming-of-age story that takes place in a Buddhist summer camp for teens. Each character is specific and alluring, yet ultimately unknowable. The central action takes place among a group of girls, yet their family circumstances are present in all the
DNF 20%

Usually I would write a more detailed review that this but I don't want to do Emily Temple a disservice. I actually really like her articles/lists on LitHub ( I would invoke death of the author but alas not today).

A few words on why I do not plan on finishing The Lightness:
If you enjoyed so called campus novels such as Bunny or Catherine House or Good Girls Lie chances are you will like The Lightness (I for one hated those 'novels'). There is a 'clique', an unreliable narrator with a sec
Jun 19, 2020 rated it did not like it
The Lightness is a reductive imitation of far better novels, puffed up on rambling purple prose and ideas the author considers profound but have crossed the mind of average people since time immemorial. Unfortunately, it's nothing more than a bag of cheap tricks: per usual, we have allusions to a terrible disaster occurring among a group of teenage girls; per usual, the disaster isn't that terrible or unexpected; per usual, the disaster occurs when the book is almost complete, revealing itself t ...more
Dannii Elle
Actual rating 4.5/5 stars.

Olivia has left her mother and the secrets they share at home. Following in her father's disappearing footsteps, she journeys to the Levitation Center, a meditation retreat that hosts troubled girls from across the globe every Summer. This was the last known location of her father and she hopes to find where he ventured from here.

Olivia is not one of the camp's 'bad girls', yet she might long to be. As she looks for what she knows she is missing, she finds she is lackin
Elyse  Walters
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Once, not so long ago, a woman on the street told me my fortune. She said it was it was good news: I’d live a long life. I’d be happy. Bouncing babies, etc. I was passed thirty by then, and I’d had these things on my mind. But there was a catch (well, isn’t there always?): You’ll never get your good, long life if you keep asking the wrong questions, the woman said. I wanted to know: Which question is the right question? She passed my fingers between her palms, my palms between her fing
Jenny (Reading Envy)
If I'm being honest, and I think people want me to share my honest opinion - this novel tries so hard to be what it isn't that it fails to be what it could have been. The author mentions The Secret History in every interview I've seen, and blurbs and reviews have followed suit, but I don't find that here. The frequent heavy-handed foreshadowing almost made me quit multiple times. And we almost lose track of the deeper layers about parents and friendship and striving for the imaginary. The settin ...more
Tinichix (nicole)
Well darn, this is one of those where I feel like I must have read a different book than everyone else in the reviews. This book is loved so far! Please don’t let my experience detour you. I am the outlier on this one.

Our protagonist heads off to The Levitation Center (“The only bit of land left where levitation is still possible”) which is a meditation center for troubled teens. Theoretically here a group of girls will be cured of all things wrong with them behavior wise. Olivia ends up lookin
Roman Clodia
I like Temple's writing a lot: it's dynamic and fresh though she rather over does the intertexts and allusions which begin to feel a bit show-offy. However, despite the good stuff, this feels like a story I've read too many times before: the dangerous clique of adolescent girls is at risk of becoming a cliché of fiction, mingling issues of sex, power, innocence and death. Megan Abbot has exploited this material as has Emma Cline as well as numerous other books which are merging into one in my he ...more
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is quite smart. Review TK
Jun 19, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
First few sentences:

1. "Once, not so long ago, a woman on the street told me my fortune."

Yawn. A bit contrived.

2. "She said it was it was good news: I’d live a long life. I’d be happy."

Getting better and better. Not quite In Cold Blood, is it?

3 "Bouncing babies, etc."

Keep the cliches coming, Emily. What's next?

4. "I was passed thirty by then, and I’d had these things on my mind."

Oh yeah, this old one.

5. "But there was a catch (well, isn’t there always?):"

Is there? Okay whatever.

6. "You’ll nev
Lucy Dacus
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this in one sitting, could not put it down. Finishing the book felt like walking out of an engrossing movie, stunned. I wasn't sure if it was for me from the description or when I first started reading because there were indicators that it may read a bit like a young adult novel (the mention of "Buddhist Boot Camp For Bad Girls" is an example). If it seems the same way to you, keep reading, it will surprise you. It is clever, complex, dark, and deep. A story about belonging and what someone ...more
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell
Oh god they compared it to Donna Tartt and the cover is giving me freaky-deaky Magritte vibes.

Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
**I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley.**

Reading this book I couldn't help but think of Family Guy's faux deep take down of "The Godfather," in part because there are a lot of faux deep moments here (so many digressions just to make a faintly clever point!) but also because, you know, this book does tend to insist upon itself. It very much wants to impress its self-awareness on the reader ("that old slog"; the way too many repetitions of "etc"), and to constantly editorialize every sing
I’m still uncertain of my feelings for this book, I felt like it started off strong, I was immediately intrigued and thought the concept interesting. A girl heads to a meditation retreat high up in the mountains, to search for answers surrounding the disappearance of her father. She becomes mesmerised then befriends three girls attending the summer camp, they slowly form a strange bond, she eventually uncovers their plans for enlightenment lead by the mysterious leader of the group revealing her ...more
Brittany Cavallaro
Gorgeous, compelling, richly textured. Like reading Megan Abbott doing Renata Adler, only even more original and electric than that. I loved this book.
Jessie Sedai of the Black Ajah🥀🐍
This book will change all your preconceived notions about what good writing is. Like the cover promises, it will blow your freaking mind.

Sometimes when I read a book I think to myself "Wow, I can write a book like this, I can one day make this happen." I'm happy. I'm content. I feel like it's a real possibility.

Well, this book is a real dream smasher.

It says "Don't quit your day job, idiot."

I don't care how many monkeys and how many typewriters are in a room. There is no way something like thi
Jan 16, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Lightness joins the ranks of recent novels that deal with the close bonds young girls form, and the uncanny which can accompany those relationships and the way they manifest. Temple creates an insulated little world from which to observe them, and though that observation is skewed by an unreliable narrator who knows she’s unreliable, watching them maneuver through their world and their friendships is still compelling. When Olivia addresses you as a reader it is disconcerting, which is what m ...more
Dan Sheehan
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If there is any justice in the literary world, this spellbinding novel will be one of the most acclaimed debuts of 2020. Darkly stylish, full of verve, acerbic wit, and shimmering intelligence, Temple’s debut is a mesmeric and unflinching exploration of adolescent female friendship and awakened sexual desire, as well as a fiery meditation on the obliterative nature of unwavering faith. Perhaps most impressively for a debut (for any novel, in fact): every sentence sings. If Donna Tartt rewrote Th ...more
Jul 21, 2020 rated it liked it
As I finished the last page and closed the book my first thought was “what the h__ did I just read!? This story is certainly interesting if not bizarre. It takes place in a Buddhist camp where bad girls go to meditate and learn good ways. Olivia is searching for her missing father and believes he was last seen at this camp. She becomes friends with a group of girls lead by the mysterious Serena. Serena believes in levitation and is determined to eventually be able to rise up in the air. Like I m ...more
Callum McLaughlin
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Set largely across one balmy summer, The Lightness follows Olivia as she enrols herself in a program for troubled girls at a meditation retreat high in the mountains. With her father having attended the same retreat just before he disappeared, Olivia hopes understanding his Buddhist passions will help her feel closer to him – and perhaps even to figure out why he never returned home. Quickly befriending a small group of enigmatic outcasts, the girls become increasingly obsessed with proving true ...more
Circe Link
May 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
If you liked Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro then this is prolly for ya. But sadly, this just wasn't my cup of tea. The niblets on Buddhism and like philosophies were witty and well researched, and made me wish there was less story and more of those. Kudos to anyone who climbs the Everest of writing a book let alone getting it published, I am sure to be the odd one out in my opinion on this one!
Thanks Goodreads for the give away!
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
As a big fan of Emily Temple’s content on Literary Hub (and of the site in general), I was excited for the release of her first novel. The Lightness does not disappoint, it is a largely successful debut. At times haunting and mysterious - others philosophical and tender - The Lightness is always intelligent. It also wears its largest inspiration on its sleeve, that being Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Through her content on Lit Hub, Emily’s love for Tartt’s classic is no secret and it really ...more
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves
oh i had SUCH a good time with this one

the monstrosity and savagery of teenage girlhood!!

this is a book that is very self-conscious of the homage it's paying to the secret history & i really enjoyed that. why pretend your book is inspired by something else? there's even a slight reference to bunny being found after the snow melted in the final few pages which made me smile.

i'd rec this to anyone looking for a bit of the TSH magic (weird cliques, isolated settings, annoying narrators) or anyone t
Mishelly loves
Jun 13, 2020 marked it as dnf
I am not leaving a rating on this book because I have no idea how I feel about it yet. There’s a beauty to the writing then it shocks you with its ugly ness violent forceful ness.

Some passages are written tightly, lyrical, dark and it’s beautiful in the way Temple things together words, but it’s also dramatic and rediculous in a way.

I love the past and present how it merges and reveals Olivia, there is a truth in a sisdebyside look I love and appreciate of the naive girl she was that summer ho
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blue
"Beauty makes me hopeless. I don't care why anymore I just want to get away. When I look at the city of Paris I long to wrap my legs around it. When I watch you dancing there is a heartless immensity like a sailor in the dead-calm sea. Desires round as peaches bloom in me all night, I no longer gather what falls."

Anne Carson, "Short Talks"


Emily Temple managed to write a novel made up of short (a few paragraphs at the most) segments of plot interspersed with shorter segments of facts relevant
Geonn Cannon
Jun 26, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe I'm reading too many books. I don't know. But this one pretty quickly went downhill when I realized "Oh, another one of these..." Girl goes to boarding school, gets in with the Wrong Crowd, bad things happen. And you know bad things are going to happen because I think every chapter had the narrator say some variation of "If only I'd known how things would end, I wouldn't have..." or "In just a few short weeks I would look back on this and wonder..." There's foreshadowing and then there's b ...more
Paige Hettinger
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
what a book....what a haunting and primal book. i'm teetering between a 4 and a 5 here, but i'm settling on a 5 for one reason alone: i think i will find myself drawn to this book, over and over again, for many years to come. i cannot imagine the things that i missed, or how much there would be left to re-discover, re-interpret, re-feel if i read it again.

temple has created such a beautiful, disquieting, honest and raw look at female desire. one of the best depictions of the female self-gaze i'v
Nov 21, 2020 rated it liked it
I don't like books with a lot of foreshadowing, and "The Lightness" is all about giving you hints of how it will end, and it is not well. That is not a spoiler. The author lets you know right from the start.
It is the story of some upper middle class girls who have been shunted off to a "meditation and wellness" center by their families for the summer to deal with their issues.
As their issues are mostly adolescent sexual daddy problems, and there is a single male narcissistic worker on site, yo
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Mt. Lebanon Publi...: The Lightness by Emily Temple 1 11 Jun 03, 2020 09:49AM  

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“Girls love to be unlike other girls, because of the lies we are told about what other girls are like.” 5 likes
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