I was trying to get my holiday reading going so I started them with “Cum Laude”, a novel set in Duke University, written by Gossip Girl’s author, Cecily von Ziegesar. Needless to say, it promised to be fun, vapid and completely detached from reality. It actually starts really good (but I already knew that from all the browsing in the bookstore this year).
I’d even settled for a review title after I finished the first chapter:
But then it quickly became very Gossip Girl-y. A bit of a let down. The characters were actually very nicely presented and the constant shift in characters perspectives (what was it called? Omniscience? Omni… conscious? Dunno) made the narrator particularly entertaining. I genuinely wanted to know more about them. And the relationship between Shipley and her mother was nicely described (Maybe von Ziegesar was practicing for Blair and her mother?).
But I just can’t get over how quickly all characters sort of… lose themselves. Which is entertaining, I guess, if you’re in that kind of mood. I wasn’t. I wanted a happy ending at last. I wanted each and every one of them to find their way home, where ever that was.
I did not want reality.
Cecily didn’t care and gave it to me anyway (though closely followed by lively descriptions of being high).
You have no idea how upset I was. I have an angrier review saved here somewhere.
I just felt so bad about the characters who kept on being lost. They deserved better.
But anyways, the story? Good girl named Shipley decides to go to Duke University and meets boys, whom she’s never really met because she’s a good girl and went to a girls’ only school; her roommate is a particularly annoying, attention-seeking girl named Eliza (she grows on you); there’s a wannabe hippie guy; a cute, redhead, shy and all the works, farm boy, Adam, and his adopted, talkative and thoroughly awesome younger sister, Tragedy; an annoying jock named Tim or Tom or something similar (who does not grow on you); all of the boys are completely inlove with Shipley because she’s blond and shy and beautiful. Shipley decided to go to Duke because her older brother, Patrick, a loner who did stupid things, attended Duke. For a month. In which he cut all but one classes. And then disappeared.
And after cutting his credit card, nobody knows where he is. (But he sure is quick to put Shipley’s credit card to use when he gets hold of it, for such a civilisation-sucks guy. He bugs me.)
But that’s what Shipley wants. To do something after being the perfect daughter to make up for the screw up son. First thing was to smoke in her Mercedes all the way to Duke. You go, girl.
Actually, I mock her, but I could relate to her need throughout the book. Sort of. Not the smoking one, the rebellion one.
Anyways, stuff happens. Then the book takes a serious tone. And then it quickly goes back to fun and flirty college commentary and completely kills it in the last chapter.
Also, I think it was written a looong time ago and only recently got published. I was a little confused reading it, with all the Vote for Clinton commentary and the use of TAPES. The book came out in 2010, for heaven’s sake.
And they mention East Anglia. University of East Anglia, UK.
Parenthetical remark ahead.
I recognized the name from one of the talks I went to earlier this year, themed “Talking about undergrad studies” or something. This one was given by Prof. Dr. John Elliot, from UEA, on “Lesson Study”, which is actually pretty amazing. They study how teachers teach, basically. Record them, watch them, discuss and improve them. Apparently in Japan that’s how they teach their little ones and they’ve got the highers scores in everything so people are starting to pay attention.
We watched a math lesson from Hong Kong, where she was teaching division and then discussing it with the others. I’d never realised how friggin’ complex it is to teach elementary maths.
Anyways, being the good girl I am (and a bit of an anglophile) I’d googled his university.
It is beautiful. If it was a brother university of my uni (like it is in the book), I’d go there in a heartbeat. And it’s not just because it’s in England. Take a look!
So. Yeah. I need a haaappy book. Suggestions?
Currently flirting with my newly arrived “Bird by Bird” :)