Sunday, October 18, 2009

BOOK: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Title and Author of Book?
Special Topics in Calamity Physics
by Marisha Pessl, 514 pages

Fiction or non-fiction? Genre?

What led you to pick up this book?
I heard of this book over two years ago when the title caught my fancy. For the non-physics fans out there, there is no physics in the book. It was one of the NY Times Notable Books in 2006.

More recently, I picked it because it was on my TBR Lite Challenge list, and Marisha Pessl was born in October, making it a perfect book for Celebrate the Author.

Summarize the plot, but don't give away the ending!
Blue van Meer, college student, is writing a book about her last year in high school. Her childhood has been spent all over America as her political/philosophical Professor father moves from college to college. She makes friends with a pretentious group of students and an unbalanced and sketchy teacher at her newest school.

What did you like most about the book?
The final 100 pages made up for a slow middle section. I liked the way the plot evolved in the end and all the events and references from earlier were explained.
The literature references were fun, and the final exam at the end was a very unique way to tie up the book and give some perspective on events and characters in the book.
The writing was smart and chockful of information, historical, factual, and literature.

What did you like least?
I lost interest in the middle of the book as the mystery was still far off.
The continual allusions and references got a bit tiring after a while.
Blue's dependence and admiration of her father were a bit creepy.

Have you read any other books by this author? What did you think of those books?
This is her only book published.

What did you think of the main character?
Blue was a unique voice, very educated. At times she seemed conflicted between her tremendous intellect and understanding of characters, with her obvious lack of ability to interact with people. She never knew what to do or say, but she could think and analyse everybody.

Any other particularly interesting characters?
Everyone was interesting, from Hannah the teacher, to the Bluebloods, Blue's friends.

Share a quote from the book:
Love or, more accurately, infatuation ("Take as much care with words expressing your sentiments as you will crafting your doctoral dissertation," Dad said.) was one of those no-good drifter emotions. (page 390)

The girl…nervously bared her long and pointy teeth (see ‘Venus Flytrap,’ North American Flora, Starnes, 1989).

What about the ending?
The ending was very good. I was ready for it about 150 earlier, but the payoff was very good.

Which of your readers are most likely to enjoy this book? Why?
It's a NY Times Notable Book, so people who like listed books would like it. It's a coming of age story as well, and lots of literature references.

Marisha Pessl was born October 26, 1977.


  1. I almost picked this up one've made me wish I did.

  2. The middle section definitely lagged, but I agree that the payoff was worth it in the end. This was such a unique book, it makes me wonder what Marisha Pessl will do next. :)

  3. I've been aware of this book for a long time and the title drew me in, too. I will think more seriously about reading it because of your review.

  4. I have always had this book in mind to read, but never seem to get there!

  5. I had this one my wish list forever but I finally got a copy from Paperback Swap. I'm excited to read it soon.

  6. debi - someday you'll get to it. I had it in a pile for 2 years.

    jenny - glad to see it wasn't just me, but it was very good at the end. I read at wiki that she has a new book out in 2010. It didn't sound like this one at all, it's a pschological thriller.

    booklogged - hope you like it!

    kailana - that's why I put it on the TBE challenge - I knew I'd finally get to it.

    petunia - I hope you like it, I'll look for your opinion when you are done.


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