Saturday, April 5, 2014

My Education by Susan Choi

A woman looks back at a traumatic love affair

Regina Gottlieb, a young graduate student at an upstate New York university sounding very much like Cornell, is infatuated by her sexy English professor Nicholas Brodeur. Rather implausibly, almost immediately he invites the bright Regina to become his graduate teaching assistant. One afternoon, while grading papers at the professor’s home, Regina encounters his beautiful wife Martha, and in a pretty nifty twist, the pair begin a heavy duty sexual love affair. Over some months, they share a lot of ecstasy, but the affair comes to a close because of Martha’s reluctance to introduce/elevate Regina as her partner. Regina falls apart, then reconnects with Martha fifteen years later.

On the face of it, the stakes of this novel of manners are slight. Choi’s heavy-on-the-commas writing style got on my nerves at first. I read the first fifty pages then decided to give the book five more pages before bailing. I’m glad I kept reading because the story started sucking me in on page 54. The strong spot turned out to be the exuberant writing – the raw honesty and shocking and inventive imagery and funny crazy anecdotes. There’s very good explicit writing about sex (although I didn’t understand how a woman who is breastfeeding has such a high libido), great observations and a number of kooky minor characters. But pacing is an issue here – the momentum seriously lags in spots, especially at the end. There really is no need for Regina’s meeting up with Martha 15 years later. The ending is very anticlimactic.

No comments:

Post a Comment