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Special Topics in Calamity Physics by…

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

by Marisha Pessl

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,7702741,070 (3.66)322
  1. 162
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Eumenides, shellibrary, Littlemissmops)
  2. 30
    The Marriage Plot: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides (kinsey_m)
  3. 30
    The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (lyzadanger)
    lyzadanger: Precocious young women in small towns.
  4. 20
    The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (zhejw)
    zhejw: I loved both books, but Pessl's is a notch up in language, character development, and plot. Lockhart's is the place for teens to start.
  5. 10
    The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both books offer in-detail insights into life as a young adult when interacting with others.
  6. 43
    Likewise: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag by Ariel Schrag (lorax)
  7. 10
    My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both books offer sharp humor offered by a student.
  8. 11
    I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (Littlemissmops)
  9. 00
    The Likeness by Tana French (Sammiwithani)
    Sammiwithani: Also about a group of elite school friends dealing with a mysterious death in their circle
  10. 00
    The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman (Lillydarlene)
    Lillydarlene: The intensity of friendship that comes with being in high school, and with being an isolated group, with a dark secret in the background. Both of these are good if you've read The Secret History and are hungry for a similar feel.
  11. 11
    Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson (Mossa)
  12. 00
    The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall (krist_ellis)
  13. 12
    The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (krist_ellis)
  14. 12
    Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (lycomayflower)
  15. 01
    Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday (sarahemmm)
    sarahemmm: This is worth trying if you like the unusual format of Pessl's book.
  16. 34
    Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both books look at issues encountered by one particular student.

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» See also 322 mentions

English (258)  Dutch (7)  French (5)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (274)
Showing 1-5 of 258 (next | show all)
Blue Van Meer has lived a charmed life. She is brilliant and lives with her father who is an esteemed and financially well off professor, charming and beloved by almost every woman who meets him.

Blue and her father move often as he says he wants to takes positions wherever he thinks his beloved Blue will learn more.

This is the story of Blue's senior year in yet another new-to-her high school. She is taken under the wing of Hannah Schneider, a rather eccentric teacher who mentors a group of select students. Although Blue doesn't really fit in, she is proud to be a member of this elite clique.

I thought it started out very similarly to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, except you know from the first page there has been a suicide or perhaps murder.

It's not exactly a mystery, as there really aren't enough clues in the first three quarters of this longish novel. (Well at least I didn't see them.) And instead of someone solving the death, it all gets explained in one of the last chapters.

I also didn't see (either) of the end twists coming.

I'd definitely be interested in reading another of Ms. Pessl's works. ( )
  streamsong | Sep 9, 2018 |
I loved, loved, loved this book! 5 STARS!

Blue Van Meer is a young girl studying at Harvard who decides to write about her life. Kind of a brainiac, and a bit odd, she starts with some tidbits of her childhood. Her mother died when she was very young, so she was raised primarily by her eccentric father who is a professor that moved her around a lot, from place to place. But most of the book takes place in Blue's high school years, particularly her senior year where she meets and befriends her teacher Hannah Schneider and joins an elite group of eccentrics, named the Bluebloods. And then, there is a murder.

Its a great mystery, a definite page-turner and you see how this murder has impacted Blue's life, and my goodness, it just gets better and better as you read on. I'm a big fan of Pessl's now! ( )
  Bookapotamus | Jun 27, 2018 |
this book leaves me overwhelmed with youthful cleverness, with endless references and allusions, with youth in general. I know the reviews say witty, but I am worn out. Luckily I can follow the constant listing of artifacts of the 70s 80s etc, but this book will soon need page after page of annotations. Oh, the characters are memorable, even if a youthful (that word youth) fantasy/nightmare. OK reading when you are not too tired ( )
  kerns222 | Jun 17, 2018 |
I love the way this was written- and so well researched too to make the main character and her father so erudite. Didn't expect what happened at all, so that was interesting but shifted the book from literature to then a mystery/thriller in the last 150 pages. Not ideal I think. I'm not sure it's a 4, but maybe a 3.5. ( )
  nheredia05 | Jun 12, 2018 |
This debut novel is remarkable. It is a mystery, concerning the death of a woman in her mid-40's, either by murder or suicide. (We are told of this in the Introduction and first sentence of Chapter 1.) Like a slow police procedural, it requires a lot of patience; I nearly quit after 100 pages because I didn't know where the book was heading. For the first half (!), which is the background story, I thought it was more of a ÛÏyoung adult‰Û novel, which I generally don't read. Then I reread the introduction, and, since I enjoyed the prose, I kept on reading. It is also a satire, a kind of spoof of academia, which I found very funny. For example, after describing a person's looks, she often refers to a citation for some animal. (People do look like their dogs, don't they?)

It is like no other book I've ever read, but I have seen accusations of plagiarism of ideas from Donna Tartt's The Secret History (1992) and Daniel Handler's The Basic Eight (1999). Actually, the publisher's description alludes to Donna Tartt, and some complimentary critics have called it a post-modern version of that classic novel. Finding this out after finishing reduced my admiration for Pessl's originality but did not diminish my enjoyment of having read it.

For those of you who, like me, really enjoy listening to audiobooks, I think I would have missed much in that format, not to mention the illustrations (author's pencil sketches), which do enhance the text. (I don't understand why Audible.com does not include a pdf file containing the figures.) Not only is it very long (21.5 hours,) thus hard to sustain continuity, but I found myself occasionally looking back at earlier chapters to clarify connections or flashbacks.

Aside from minor typographical errors, I found only one glaring editing error, the self-contradictory sentence "...Marc Lecinque, had unexpectedly hanged himself ... and a pistol--fully loaded, apart for [sic] a single bullet--was found on the floor next to him." (page 450 in hardbound). (I assure you this is not a spoiler; this character is completely incidental to the story.) It is as if two different drafts got mixed up, one in which he shot himself and the other in which he hanged himself.
( )
  MidwestGeek | Dec 29, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 258 (next | show all)
Her exhilarating synthesis of the classic and the modern, frivolity and fate — “Pnin” meets “The O.C.” — is a poetic act of will. Never mind jealous detractors: virtuosity is its own reward. And this skylarking book will leave readers salivating for more.


» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pessl, Marishaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Card, Emily JaniceNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dad always said a person must have a magnificent reason for writing out his or her Life Story and expecting anyone to read it.
"Unless your name is something along the lines of Mozart, Matisse, Churchill, or Bond--James Bond--you best spend your free time finger painting or playing shuffleboard, for no one, with the exception of your flabby-armed mother with stiff hair and a mashed-potato way of looking at you, will want to hear the particulars of your pitiable existence, which doubtlessly will end as it began--with a wheeze."
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Book description
Special Topics in Calamity Physics, the dazzling debut of Marisha Pessl, is a buoyant combination of comedy, tragedy, mystery, and romance, a story of disturbing secrets and the eccentric high school student who uncovers them. It is a coming-of-age tale and a disturbing mystery. a snapshot of the dark relationship between ideology and violence but also the poignant tale of a young woman learning to stand on her own.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143112120, Paperback)

?Dazzling,? (People) ?Exuberant,? (Vogue) ?marvelously entertaining,? (The Dallas Morning News) Marisha Pessl?s mesmerizing debut has critics raving and heralds the arrival of a vibrant new voice in American fiction. At the center of this ?cracking good read?4 is clever, deadpan Blue van Meer, who has a head full of literary, philosophical, scientific, and cinematic knowledge. But she could use some friends. Upon entering the elite St. Gallway school, she finds some?a clique of eccentrics known as the Bluebloods. One drowning and one hanging later, Blue finds herself puzzling out a byzantine murder mystery. Nabokov meets Donna Tartt (then invites the rest of the Western Canon to the party) in this novel?with ?visual aids? drawn by the author?that has won over readers of all ages.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:51 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

In a plot modeled after the syllabus of a college literature course, teen narrator Blue Van Meer and her father Gareth end ten years of wandering by settling in Stockton, N.C. There, Blue befriends, sort of, a group of eccentric geniuses (referred to by their classmates as the Bluebloods) and their ringleader, film studies teacher Hannah Schneider. As Blue becomes enmeshed with Hannah and the Bluebloods, the novel becomes a murder mystery when a friend of Hannah's dies at a party the kids have crashed.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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Average: (3.66)
0.5 11
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1.5 16
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2.5 42
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