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The Lessons

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,330 ratings  ·  145 reviews
Hidden away in an Oxford back street is a crumbling Georgian mansion, unknown to any but the few who possess a key to its unassuming front gate. Its owner is the mercurial, charismatic Mark Winters, whose rackety trust-fund upbringing has left him as troubled and unpredictable as he is wildly promiscuous. Mark gathers around him an impressionable group of students: glamoro ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published 2010 by Viking
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3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,330 ratings  ·  145 reviews

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this may be one of those books that is a four star book for me, but maybe not a four star book for everyone else.

for starters, it is a combination of secret history and the talented mr. ripley. so if you like those things, get in line. it is about an average man from an average background coming to the attention of a wildly charismatic man and his circle of friends.

however, this is a book which simply tells a story.
that's it.

no bells, no whistles, no uncovering the mysteries of the universe.

Apr 27, 2013 rated it liked it
The Lessons, Naomi Alderman's second novel, is reminiscent of Donna Tartt's famous The Secret History - featuring a young and naive narrator from a relatively poor background, who enrolls in at a prestigious university (Tartt's is located in a sleepy Vermont town) where he falls in with a group of quirky, overly privileged and rich young people, and learns their ways by participating in the crazy things they do. The Secret History was not the first novel to do that, but it was undoubtedly the mo ...more
tw for self harm, suicide ideations, domestic abuse

Rep: male bi mcs

* you know that trope where there's an unhealthy gay relationship in a literary novel? this book exemplifies that trope. if you look that trope up, you will see a picture of this book. not only is the relationship unhealthy, it's manipulative, and at the end you see it's also abusive. thanks for that.

* the two main characters who have this relationship are both bi (i assume, given that it's never said, but they both have relation
mathilde maire
Reminded me of The Secret History and Brideshead Revisited, so yes, of course I loved it.
As you may already know, The Secret History by Donna Tartt is one of my favourite books, possibly my all-time favourite. Nothing in all the modern fiction I've ever read has matched it, so I tend to be interested when reviews compare a new novel to it, as they often do - particularly with novels by relatively young female authors, like this one. There are indeed many similarities between the two, and at the beginning in particular the influence of Tartt's modern classic is so obvious that The Le ...more
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars
Holly Dunn
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. This was wondrous and devastating.
Anna Luce
★★✰✰✰ (2 stars)

The premise itself was enough to intrigue me. A close-knit group of friends attending Oxford? Yes please. Naomi Alderman's style lends itself well for this: it has a 'polish' that evokes notions of privilege. However, the characters and plot do not convey the good qualities of Alderman's style. Throughout, there is a sort of entitlement which feels hollow: Oxford is not the forefront of the story, and it is the annoying attitude of the characters which render this novel so self-im
Patricia Kaiser
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Für mich war das eine unterhaltsame Wochenendlektüre, die ich nur ungern aus der Hang gelegt habe, weil die Handlung spannend war und die Geschichte fesselnd erzählt wird. Ich bin ein Fan von College Romanen und wenn sie in England spielen, sind sie mir gleich noch lieber, weshalb mich diese Lektüre schon mal nicht enttäuschen konnte. Bald sah ich Ähnlichkeiten zu 'The Secret History' und die Beziehung der beiden Hauptfiguren hat etwas von 'Brideshead Revisited', obwohl ich sagen muss, dass die ...more
Nov 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
There is an almost endless supply of novels about college friends: Brideshead Revisited, The Group, The Secret History, The Line of Beauty, The Emperor's Children and at last count 83,477 others. They all use the same basic formula: desperate people make intense friendships more by virtue environment than choice and are led by the most charismatic of the bunch into making bad decisions and the same basic characters: the snob, the innocent, the addict, the rich one, the charity case, Thelma and D ...more
From BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
The Lessons is the second novel from Naomi Alderman, winner of the Orange New Writer's Award and Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. Set among the dreaming spires of Oxford, it follows the progress of a gilded group of under-graduates drawn together by their dazzling and mercurial fellow student Mark Winters. Fuelled by his trust-fund they live a charmed life of learning and parties and love-affairs. But university is no grounding for real life and none of t
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone who loved tsh, and likes slow but :o, and was disappointed papernathy isn't canon
Shelves: favorites
I don't normally bother to write reviews, but considering how little known this book is and how amazing it turned out to be, here I go.
He had been the centre, the one who bound us together, because beside him we seemed more similar to each other. Without him, Emmanuella was too rich, and Franny too opiniated, and Simon too shallow. Without him, we were just a scattering of people.

I feel like it's important to point out that this book is for a particular crowd of people. Not everyone is going to
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: may-2017, book-club
I was sucked into Naomi Alderman's The Lessons from the very first page. It is as intriguing as it is strange, and as strange as it is unsettling. Well written and compelling, I would have happily given this a five-star rating if the ending had been more realistic, and less predictable. Very enjoyable overall, Alderman is an author whose other work I will definitely be looking out for in future.
Really, really want to re-read The Secret History right now...

Yet I do not wish to compare The Lessons to The Secret History. There are similarities but only in terms of the atmospheric-ness. The Lessons is not a carbon copy of Donna Tartts novel - not at all. It has its own magic to it, its own darkness, its own suffocating and desperate quality that really starts to pick up in the second half of the book and I very much enjoyed it.

I could not be more glad to have found The Secret History thro
Mar 13, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is achingly like reading The Likeness again, full of the creepily, wonderfully, close relationships of Oxford students who live in a big, decrepit house together. All that's missing is the police investigation. Since I kind of wish my default reading mode was to always be reading The Likeness again, it's safe to assume that I loved that about this book. It's only getting three stars, however, because the end is such a disappointment. While it could be that I didn't care for it because ...more
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dark-academia
I am a simple girl. I see that a book has The Secret History vibes and I immediately pick it up.

Unfortunately, The Lessons by Naomi Alderman not only was something else, but it was also a book without a solid plot and without explanation for the behavior of its characters.

The book tells the story of James, wannabe physicist, who gets into Oxford and makes a lot of questionable choices: running on slippery slopes, hanging out with suspicious cool kids and moving in with all of them in a huge, r
Nov 21, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Christ Stopped at San Ceretino

I won’t be the first reviewer of The Lessons by Naomi Alderman to point out its two unequal parts; the first a conventional coming of age narrative ensconced in all the adornment of an elite university, and the second a more complex story that explores larger questions of pain, self-loathing, and dependency. Read as a whole, however, the book falls disappointingly short of being a well constructed piece of fiction.

By means of belabored allusion, the antagonist and c
Ich weiß irgendwie nicht so richtig, was ich von dem Buch halten soll. An sich fand ich die Handlung echt interesant, aber irgendwie ging mit es zu schnell und es wad sehr oberflächlich ...
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Als James zum Studieren nach Oxford geht, findet er auf dem elitären College zunächst kaum Anschluss und ist heillos überfordert. Er schreibt schlechte Noten und der immense Leistungsdruck macht ihm zu schaffen. Zu allem Überfluss, zieht er sich eine schwere Knieverletzung zu, die nicht verheilen will. Der unscheinbare James, hängt mit dem Stoff hinterher und seine Eltern sind zunehmend enttäuscht von ihrem Sohn und vergleichen ihn ständig mit seiner älteren Schwester, die ebenfalls erfolgreich ...more
Three reasons I was eager to read 'The Lessons': 1. Alderman’s The Power was one of my favourite books of 2016, 2. Someone on tumblr enthusiastically recommended it, 3. It’s always tempting to read novels about the Oxbridge Experience and compare them to my own Oxbridge Experience, especially if they’re not murder mysteries. On the first front, I found ‘The Lessons’ much less sharp and much more conventional. On the third front it didn’t quite satisfy either. There were moments of insight, yet t ...more
May 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
I must confess to having a penchant for this "Brideshead" style of novel set in an esteemed academic environment with a group of quirky, privileged characters who adopt and mould a less wealthy, more vulnerable individual. "Brideshead Revisited" and "The Secret History" rank among my favourite novels and I guess it is comforting, as a reader, to quickly recognise the setting/plot and to simply relax and enjoy the ride!

None of characters have particularly attractive personalities and they do, to
Sep 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
James is a middling physicist, who sinks into depression and failure after he badly injures his knee in his first term at Oxford. He subsequently meets a set of friends whom he considers exotic and make him feel like he belongs somewhere for a time. So begins 'The Lessons' in fairly typical Oxford-novel fashion.

I wasn't at all sure I was going to like this book for a much of the time I spent reading it. If you've read 'The Secret History', there are parallels. It was so disappointing to read abo
May 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Actual rating: 2.5

Well, the writing was a plus. It ebbed and flowed with moments of great prose, but it did, too, have entire sections that droned on and on and bore me away from the page. I thought at once I would enjoy this story because it is so likened to The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It does, I would say, hold a certain resemblance to the general plot of Tartt's novel: young, posh twenty-somethings at a prestigious school who fall into an exclusive familial clique; isolating themselves
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty much all I've ever wanted from a book was a version of The Secret History set in Oxford. The Lessons doesn't quite get there – in their own review, a friend called it closer to Brideshead Revisited, which seems apt – but the major players are compelling, and the depiction of the mental health issues and more general anxieties that seem to come with life at Oxford (inferiority complexes, fears of missing out on a quintessential "Oxford experience," and what it's like to battle depression d ...more
Rachel Pollock
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. It turned out to be what I wished The Secret History had been, upon rereading it 20 years after the first time I read it. I loved that book to distraction when I first read it. The way life has changed me in the interim, unfolded such that this book is now what that book was then.
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this. It seemed to start as a sub-Brideshead glittering things but subtly morphed into a meditation on life, love and our capacity for self destruction. It is entirely concerned with the activities of a privileged group but for all that it is an engaging read. Alderman is a good writer and she manages to make important points without falling into the bubble gum philosophy trap. I confess I can't quite explain why I haven't given it five stars, I read it in two sittings, sucked i ...more
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Sort of Brideshead Revisited, but without the teddy bear.
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobooks, lgbt
I was going to give this three stars, but after writing out this review I've come to realise that this deserves 2.5 stars at best.

Somehow I got the impression that this was going to be some sort of a mystery novel (maybe because of all of the reviews comparing this to The Secret History, which I haven't actually read yet), and when I had listened to over two hours of the audiobook, I was a bit puzzled at the lack of mysterious events happening. After looking it up on Goodreads, I found out that
I'm conflicted about this novel, when I finished it the only thought in my mind was "what was the point?" I didn't find any of the characters interesting mostly because the author didn't develop any of them, except for Mark, but the only thing we know about him are that he's rich, unstable and gay, and that's it. The other characters, Franny, Simon, Jess, etc are just background noise, they seem to be here in name only and I still don't know anything about them after finishing the novel.
The rela
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Naomi Alderman (born 1974 in London) is a British author and novelist.

Alderman was educated at South Hampstead High School and Lincoln College, Oxford where she read Philosophy, Politics and Economics. She then went on to study creative writing at the University of East Anglia before becoming a novelist.
She was the lead writer for Perplex City, an Alternate reality game, at Mind Candy from 2004 th
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“For this is the heart of the matter: disasters occur where accidents meet character.” 2 likes
“No wonder we spend our adult lives feeling we’re simply pretending to know what we’re doing. After sixteen years spent doing exams, where the lessons we’ve received perfectly fit the challenges we’re faced with, our preparation for the unpredictable events of normal life will always seem shoddy and haphazard.” 1 likes
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