18 July 2012

Book Review. The Lessons. Naomi Alderman.

Im sitting here writing this post having finished the book about 30 seconds ago. I had a bit of a rolercoaster in the 3 days it took to read the book.. at first I was hooked.. and then towards the end I just wanted to finish it because I had spent over 200 pages with the author confirming what the reader suspected from the first page. rather than spoil it for you already I will let you read the blurb for yourself and get down to what I really thought.

The Blurb

James, always the outsider, enters oxford - high seat of priviledge, wealth and ambition. there e meets Mark Winters - dissolute, astonishingly, heartbreakingly rich and pitilessly cruel - and the fellow students he has gathered around him; untouchable Emmanuella; on-again/off-again Simon and Franny; and passionate, true Jess.
The nights, and many of the days, become one long party. friendships are made, and broken. Lovers swapped, or dropped. It is all beguiling and bewitching. everything James dreamed of but never quite believed in.
But after university they are cast out into an indifferent world. free of mark and his dark influence, they are lost to one another, until one night tradgedy strikes...

My Opinion

Firstly, the story is nothing like the blurb, so don't let it fool you, as I was, into thinking it was mysterious and massively. The back cover is full of quotes which suport my initial take on the book, and it was only when i neared the end, I realised I had spent so much time reading a book which seemingly had no conclusion. no event dramatic enough to make it worthwhile. The ending is vague, its one of those tales which hasnt quite finished, but there isnt room for anything else to be said. as a reader you anticipate something greater to happen. This might be to reflect the monotony of James' life, which as picked up by the character of Mark, is just a refelection of those around him at any time. despite the lacking storyline, it is beautifully written, and even when I got bored of it, I still wanted to read.

The character of Mark initially reminded me of Gatsby from The Great Gatsby, the persona, the lifestyle, it is only when the book delves a little deeper into their lives that the differences emerge, character of James initially reminded me of Nick from The Great Gatsby. I think this is on of the things that made the story seem a bit more interesting, having already read The Great Gatsby, and the character of James initially reminded me of Nick from The Great Gatsby, and the stories possibly follow similar lines in terms of the protagonists seeing obsession with the illusive rich man able to provide a life that seems little more than a dream.


My main issue with this book, which is the one aspect which let the book down for me, and that is that you spend over 200 pages waiting for James to admit to himself that he is gay, or at least in love with Mark. it is apparent from the first page, and once he realises it, it becomes obvious that the entire book up to that point has been him realising this, and to what extent it could be surpressed. For me, the story could have delved into much more dramatic and mysterious areas within the storyline set up, without this being the focus, for example the relationship between James and Jess, which seems a bit funny from the start. another major problem is the character of Nicola, I think the relationship between her and Mark seems questionable.. particularly to lengths it goes to. It makes the whole story much less realistic, especially to a modern reader.


It was definitely a good read, and one book off my summer reading list. I question why it was recommended to me by my Dads wife.. but it has exposed me to a wonderful author, even if the story line was a bit iffy in places. I recommend this to people wanting a quick read.. its not a long book, and is easily read, and hopefully this review will open your eyes more to what it really is.. much beyond the facade created by the blurb.

Until next time...

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