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Summary

Special Topics in Calamity Physics is a mesmerizing debut, uncannily uniting the trials of a postmodern upbringing with a murder mystery, heralds the arrival of a vibrant new voice in literary fiction. It has received rave reviews around the world and was shortlisted for the 2007 Quills Awards.

As teenager Blue van Meer tells her story we are hurled into a dizzying world of murder and butterflies, womanizing and wandering, American McCulture, The Western Canon, political radicalism and juvenile crushisms. Structured around a syllabus for a Great Works of Literature class, Blue's wickedly funny yet poignant tale reveals how the imagination finds meaning in the most bewildering times, the ways people of all ages strive for connection, and how the darkest of secrets can set us free.

©2007 Marisha Pessl (P)2008 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd.

Critic reviews

"Made me stay up all night reading. I loved this book." (Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife)
"This is undoubtedly one of the most impressive debut novels I have ever read...It is, perhaps, Pessl's level of precision, coupled, of course, with her ability to create a plot that stops you doing anything apart from read it, that makes her such an exciting writer." ( Independent on Sunday)

What listeners say about Special Topics in Calamity Physics

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Done before but done well

I bought this one after enjoying her second book (which is better) and I was not disappointed. The writing is witty and though most of the story is not particularly original I liked how the plot developed. The references to other books although initially entertaining over time wear thin and some anecdotes that do not move the story forward should have been edited. The narrator was excellent and the last 15 minutes of the book made me increase my rating from 3 stars. Get this one and her second book too.

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  • Hugh
  • 03-05-11

Worth it - in the end.

I almost gave up on this - 20 hours is a significant portion of your life to devote to something you are only luke-warm on. However, I pushed on though and once I got over the half-way hump, the story gained momentum and was a reasonably compelling ride to the finish.
Too much time, perhaps, was spent setting up the characters (or is this a male/female thing?), which I guess may not be a problem, except that I was not overly drawn to them. Blue, our heroine, ridiculed various social groups while also striving to be part of one. And in Australia we have a word the rhymes with "banker" to describe her father.
Once the mystery starts to build, I feel the story takes a turn for the better. And the ending brings various aspects together in a satisfying way.