Night Film - Marisha Pessl

I told myself I'd write something about this book because I loved it so much. It deserves something from me, a token of my adoration for entertaining me for hours or at the very least, a chance to squee and beg you to read it too.

 

The thing is, it's very hard to write about this story (plot wise) because I don't want to peel even one layer of this onion for you - it was so perfect that I want you to experience it whole for yourself. Part of the joy of reading was wildly guessing what was happening at the turn of every page. This would be a fantastic group read, I really wished I was reading with someone during the process just to bounce ideas and thoughts around.

 

When I look back through my notes and highlights and laughingly see that none of my predictions actually came to true, I'm reminded of how many roads this story could have taken, how many questions I asked while reading through and how many of those questions aren't really answered. I think to myself, why doesn't that bother me? Therein is part of the brilliance of this book, it comes around full circle, maybe not in a way that I would have expected or even in a way that is neat and tidy but the whole experience left me so satisfied that I just didn't care.

 

Now, salt at the ready, while I really enjoyed this entire book, it wasn't perfect (but what is!).

 

Firstly, Scott McGrath, our main character and narrator, is a 40 something investigative journalist divorcee. He's won awards, been on T.V., covered major stories and worked for a major news syndicate type place. He's well known. He's been around the block. He drinks whiskey. The perfect clichéd successful man, masculine and stuff.

 

Why, oh why, did his narration sound so gosh darn feminine to me? Overly verbose, snarky, and sarcastic in a way that definitely reminds you of Kristin Wiig. Just really strange and something that caught me off-guard for the first 60% of the book. Here:

 

"The corridor walls were bright, painted half white, half kitten-nose pink, but the place felt clinical and claustrophobic, like a train compartment. The Disoriented Express headed toward Crazytown. All aboard."

 

Kitten nose pink? Odd descriptive. And the constant quirky jokes felt...out of place.

 

And here, is this really what Scott McGrath (depressed, down and out, tough and gritty reporter) would say when looking at unfinished breakfast?

 

"On the table in front of her was a plate of half-finished French toast floating like a houseboat on the Mississippi in a pool of syrup."

 

I guess, maybe. It just didn't work for me.

 

Secondly, the atmospheric stuff felt very forced...like Pessel was just trying too hard. Some of this speaks to the narration problem too...it didn't feel like a good fit for the created character.

 

"With my every step, the old building seemed to cough and growl, protesting my scaling its rusty spine"

 

"We were in my car, sitting at the end of Devold’s driveway. We’d been waiting for him to reappear for forty-five minutes. Apart from my headlights illuminating the unmarked road, which twisted around the dense shrubs in front of us, it was pitch black out here, totally deserted. The wind had picked up. It whistled insistently against the..."

 

I say all this because the action and the story were so good, all this extra effort towards humor and ambience was really unnecessary, and did nothing more than really boost the word count. A simpler approach would have worked better, I think.

 

But my opinion on writing style really has little to do with the caliber of story told. It's pretty unclassifiable, part mystery, part horror, part psychological thriller - all good.