I finished Night Film, Marisha Pessl’s second book last night. I loved her debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and had high hopes for this. I’m feeling very meh about it. If I think about it too hard, I get really frustrated with it. If I take it on a surface level it was fairly entertaining for vast swathes. I really don’t understand how this book was marketed as a literary thriller (whatever that is). It’s pure page-turning junk food. Which is completely fine – unless you start thinking about. There is SO MUCH exposition in the dialogue, each revelatory scene feels like a repeat of the last one. If you gloss over the italics (so frigging many italics), which I have a pretty high tolerance for, the writing style in some parts of the book is pretty good. The atmosphere is pretty great. Loved the first 200 pages, and about a 40 page chunk near the end. Ending was a let down.
I am trying to pin point why Special Topics in Calamity Physics was so much better, and beyond having a better story, better characters, and being generally better written, I think Pessl was far more invested in the character of Blue Van Meer than in her middle-aged male protagonist of Night Film. Debut novels that I’ve loved by female authors recently (Curtis Sittenfeld: Prep, Marisha Pessl: Special Topics) have a closer connection to their adolescent narrators. They aren’t so far removed from those awkward years themselves. Not that you have to write about young women when you’re a young woman (hello, Zadie Smith), but maybe it comes more naturally? Anyway, I would recommend this book for a fun read if you don’t mind length, and a bit of weak writing – it’s 600 pages. But hey, millions of people (myself shamefully included) read all 2000-odd pages of the Twilight Saga, which is literally RIDDLED with errors and lousy writing, so in comparison to that, this is a genius work.