To be perfectly honest, this is a book written for a very specific group of people. I happen to be one of those people, or this would have been a three- or four-star review, most likely. However, if you’re following this blog, chances are you’re one of those people, too, so this book might be worth your while.
The Writing Class is a book written for anyone who has ever been in, you guessed it, a writing class. Speaking as someone who’s been in about a hundred, I can’t even tell you how on point Willett’s story is. But it’s also just a ripping good read.
The Writing Class is a murder mystery for writers and book nerds (so hi, obviously this is the perfect book for me). It follows Amy Gallup, a has-been novelist who’s spent the last ten years or so writing blurbs and an unsatisfactory blog and teaching adult writing courses in order to pay the bills. But her newest group is a surprisingly interesting bunch. They’re smart and eclectic and (in some cases) talented, but most interestingly, there’s a psychopath among them. It starts with a blistering mockery of another student’s work, a devastating anonymous critique, and then escalates to cruel practical jokes and eventually – murder. At the center of the mayhem sits Gallup, struggling to piece together the identity of ‘The Sniper,’ with only textual clues to follow.
Eventually the whole class gets on board, despite the fact that they’ve been officially disbanded. Using Gallup’s critical process, they collectively examine the Sniper’s work, hoping to identify the culprit. It’s difficult work, because nobody can be trusted, and personal feelings get in the way of objective investigation.
It’s a smart, fast-paced story, to be sure. But that’s not why I enjoyed it so much. Willett’s portrait of the typical writing class is what sold me. It’s so absolutely on point that I laughed out loud on more than one occasion and found myself saying, “Oh my God, I know that person.” Even funnier (and slightly more surprising) was when I looked at once of Gallup’s pupils and said, “Oh my God, that’s me.” (I’m Chuck, if anyone who’s read the book is wondering.) Willett has the perfect cast of budding writers – from the overly PC feminist warrior always looking for a fight to that one guy who’s only ever brilliant by accident. In Gallup’s writing class you will find everyone you’ve ever been in a writing class with. Not to mention, the atmosphere is so perfectly constructed that I found myself actually picturing the last classroom I had a writing class in – identical down to the detail of the box fan that’s always just a little too loud.
If you’ve ever been in a writing class, you need to read this book. If you’ve ever considered taking a writing class, you need to read this book. If you like books, you need to read this book. If you’ve never done any of those things
why are you here you should read it anyway.
Five stars. Find it on Goodreads here, and look forward to quotes like this:
You might ask yourself why you want to surprise your readers in the first place. A surprise ending is sort of like a surprise party. Probably some people, somewhere, enjoy having friends and trusted colleagues lunge at them in the sudden blinding light of their own living room, but I don’t think most of us do.
I read this book because my bosses wife read it & loved it, so I expected to as well.... but I didn't.
For me their were only two sub-stories (although there were supposed to be three I think), but neither of them really took off. I'm also not sure whether the stories were supposed to be first or third person, because they kept awkwardly flipping.
The relationships between all the characters also seemed very awkward. Nobody was friends, but they pretended to be friends whilst silently wanting to leave the situation. What kind of way is that to live life?
I also thought that the book was too descriptive. For some (most?) people that won't be an issue, but I get bored with the wordy-ness. An example of this is "The authorial voice could break in at this point and urge caution, but not so strongly that the lover loses his stride. While the bodies writhe and thrust in the striated light, he might even indulge in a little meditation on the writing of sex and how to go about it. Prehaps he would muse that more than any other human activity sex may be as erotic as it can be numbing, as amusing as it is tragic, as breeding of loathing as it is of love. He would debate whether his attention should alight on that quivering droplet or that gleaming gland, or whether the author should leave the room altogether" (page 108). For me, reading words sentences like that was too much, too often.
I didn't think this book was a total write off & would recommend it to certain people (I'm lending the book to my mum this weekend), but I won't be reading it again.
I loved Jincy Willet’s hilarious second book about aging novelist and writing instructor Amy Gallup so much that I doubled back to read this first one. While this has the same main character and I enjoyed it a lot, The Writing Class is very different from its sequel and I liked the second book more. Amy Falls Down is absurd, funny, insightful, and moving, and while The Writing class has all of those qualities they aren’t as strong and it’s first and foremost a mystery--an element that is not part of the second book about Amy Gallup at all.
As a mystery, The Writing Class is a curious but interesting hybrid, part humorous cozy and part chilling psychological thriller. I have a low fear threshold so I may not be a good judge, but some sections of this book were the most chilling, scary reading I have done for a while. Guessing who the likely suspect was didn’t dissipate my unease at all--which greatly impresses me. Another very cool thing about this book is that Amy uses her skill as a writer and instructor of fiction to solve the crime. Both books featuring Amy Gallup would be great for wanna-be or beginning authors because a lot of discussion about the process of fiction writing is seamlessly integrated into the plot.
As a side note, Amy Gallup, fictional character, has a website with the off putting title GO AWAY which includes crazy lists, mash-up titles with crossbred plot descriptions, and links to nowhere. It turns out Jincy Willet, real life novelist, has a similarly eccentric website, I WOULD NOT BURN THE LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA FOR YOU, that’s worth checking out if you enjoy her writing.