Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Night Film Book Cover Disappointing, Self Important and Self Indulgent- 2 Stars

After finish this book, I read through all of the reviews in my goodreads friends list. Time and time again there were 5 stars reviews. I thought I may have missed something, misunderstood something or possibly read another book. After thinking it over, it turns out that I just thought the book sucked.

This is not to say that the book was not well written. It is clear that the author devoted an amazing amount of time on the story and the building of the many, many layers. While I love to peel apart each facet of such a novel, it turns out that the more I pulled apart Night Film , the less interesting it became.

The novel is hard to define. At the outset, the story hints at elements of horror, and morphs into a crime mystery and ends, well…existentially. While this is part of the allure of the book, it is, in my opinion, a weakness. In many ways it tries to be everything and, to me, ends up being nothing. Night Film is a clever illusion but when you lift the curtains it is only smoke and mirrors. I was initially impressed with some of the literary devices used. Yet, upon reflection, I felt as if the author had only tricked me into believing something it was not. Part of this came from the extensive mythology that was created around, Cordova, the reclusive film director with a cult following. He was a bigger than life character with a whole catalogue of films that reflect and enlighten the human experience. This part is very well crafted…but than the problem, the mythology explains the story instead of enlightening the story. I was left feeling cheated and couldn’t help but feel that everything in the story was self serving. I found it to be very self indulgent of the author to present a scenario, problem or mystery and not provide the clues and means to work it out. Much of the story cannot be understood without the context provided much later in the story. I can provide an example but it is a bit of a spoiler. You can go over to my Goodreads review and read the spoiler if you are so inclined. GoodReads Review

The book tried so hard to be contemporary fiction that used elements of horror, mystery, suspense and thriller to create and work of literary fiction. Unfortunately, the horror left much to be desired, the thrills were often shrouded in confusion, and the suspense was lacking. I felt that only the mystery was of any interest and the only reason I did not abandon this one. While the story was complex, the writing was average at best. The overuse of the simile does not a good novel make. It serves as heavy layer of makeup to cover flaws and blemishes but never provides true structural change.

Maybe I am being too hard on this book. It is clear that many people found it be quite suspenseful and thrilling. I found it to be self involved, contrived, overblown and pretentious. I did read it all the way through without throwing myself off a bridge so it is good enough to get two stars.

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Tim Written by:

Tim is a lawyer, sports fan, parent, husband and book lover. He runs his own legal practice and is the founder of The Literary Lawyer book blog and a contributing writer for baseballbabble.com. Tim loves to share his love of reading by providing reviews to entertain as well as provide information to help you make an informed reading decision.

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