Sunday, 3 August 2014

Thought Provoking

The Virgins by Pamela Erens

(book supplied by

I saw this on the shelf in a bookshop a few months ago and noted it down as one to read over the summer and then when the chance came to review it for Bookbridgr I was really pleased.

It wasn't an easy read in terms of content and style but I certainly found myself racing through the pages.

Set in an elite and relatively free thinking American boarding school in the late 1970s we follow a few of the students through one academic year, mostly from the view point of the graduating class. Our narrator is truly unreliable although this only comes to light a little while into the book. He however does let us know that a lot of what he is saying is supposition or discovered after the event and so as a reader you are informed of this.

Two of the students develop a passionate relationship and this spirals out of control during the course of the year in many ways and while a lot of reviewers talk of a surprise and shocking ending I did find this signposted throughout by our narrator and enjoyed seeing how skilfully Erens managed to build to the event.

I found the book deeply unsettling, a good reminder of just how far women have come since 1979 - the casual acceptance of sexual assault (although again all from our unreliable and rather nasty narrator) really made an impact on me.

Very much like Stoner last year I enjoyed this book but I can't see myself recommending it to all and sundry - it will make an interesting reading group read for some as there are so many ideas to discuss.

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