Susan's Reviews > Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
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Feb 13, 2012

it was amazing

This is the assured debut of Marisha Pessl and, having recently read her new novel, “Night Film,” I decided to go back and re-read the story of Blue Van Meer and her professor father. Blue travels around the country with her father, attending different schools and being educated, and moulded, by him. Gareth van Meer is a man of mystery – intelligent, sarcastic and bookish – who has a whole plethora of ‘June bugs’ attempting to trap the widower, but who all fall by the wayside, as he and Blue continue their travels.

Blue fantasises that they will settle somewhere and is thrilled when her dad announces that they will reside in Stockton, North Carolina, for the entirety of her high school senior year in order to obtain her a secure place at Harvard. Two days after arriving in Stockton, Blue sees Hannah Schneider, who turns out to be a teacher at St Gallway School, where she will attend. Her dad wants her to be Valedictorian and, at first, Blue believes it is her dad that Hannah is interested in. However, to her astonishment, it appears to be Blue that Hannah, and her closest students – a group referred to as ‘the Bluebloods’ are interested in.

Before long, Blue has joined the clique of Hannah’s group of privileged students; including handsome Charlies, delicate Leulah, sturdy Milton, the cipher that is Nigel and the stunningly beautiful and wealthy Jade. Accepted into a group for the first time in her life, it appears to be a Golden Age and a special time for Blue, but Hannah is surrounded by mystery and eventually there will be a tragedy which will change Blue’s life.

This is a wonderful novel – intelligent, filled with fantastic characters, well plotted and paced and one of those books you can simply sink into. There are few authors I re-read, but Pessl is one of them. When it was released, this novel was compared to “The Secret History” and there is much about Pessl’s writing that reminds me of Tartt, but I believe the comparisons are more due to the academic setting than anything else. I would say that, if you do enjoy Donna Tartt’s novels, you will most probably like this and she is an author that I am so glad I discovered.

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Reading Progress

February 13, 2012 – Shelved
June 17, 2014 – Started Reading
July 22, 2014 – Finished Reading

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