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review 2015-09-13 00:00
The Writing Class
The Writing Class - Jincy Willett I really enjoyed this book, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting. It's more of a character study that eventually involves murder then it is a murder mystery. The actual murder doesn't happen till well over half the book is done, but by that time you are definitely aware that some sick person is also one of the people you've met and dealt with in the class.
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review 2014-04-28 19:05
Review | The Writing Class, Jincy Willett | 5 Stars
The Writing Class - Jincy Willett

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.


Source: inkedoutloud.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/review-the-writing-class-5-stars
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review 2013-11-05 08:08
The Writing Class
The Writing Class - Stephanie Johnson

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.

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review 2013-08-11 23:42
I WOULD NOT BURN THE LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA FOR YOU (see last paragraph) -- Quirky hybrid: part humorous cozy, part chilling psychological thriller
The Writing Class - Jincy Willett

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.




Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/692314477
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review 2013-06-09 00:00
The Writing Class - Jincy Willett I picked up this book because I found the concept amusing: a burned out author who now gets by teaching creative writing extension courses has to solve a murder in her class.

The Writing Class follows the conventions of a "Ten Little Indians"-style murder mystery. We're introduced to an entire class of writer wannabes, and then we spend the book trying, along with the main character, to guess who the killer is. Jincy Willett is funny in a sharp and satirical but humane way, and she has a real gift for characterization. Each of her characters has depths to be unraveled, even the least-mentioned ones, and by the end, like Amy Gallup, the fictional author who one cannot help noticing seems to have a lot in common with Jincy Willett, it's easy to check off reasons why each and every one of them could or could not be the whack job who's escalated from leaving nasty, destructive critiques to murder.

Willett is also just a damn good writer. This isn't a "prosey" book in particular, but the prose is controlled and clever all the way through. It's a pleasure to read a real Writer at work.

The one conceit Willett allows herself — the "gimme" I'll give her for the sake of the story — is that even after it becomes apparent that someone who they're sharing manuscript critiques with may well be a literal psychopath, the entire writing class insists they love the class so much they want to keep meeting. This works brilliantly in maintaining tension, since at every class (and the inevitable "gotcha" that follows as the person they dub "the Sniper" makes another move) everyone is a suspect and the reader is mentally gathering clues. While I found it a little implausible that a real group of random adults would all be up for continuing, especially after someone dies, I was almost convinced by their enthusiastic immersion in the class and by the frisson of thrill that was surely the real motivation for most of them. ("Holy crap, one of us is a murderer! Isn't this exciting?")

There are moments, throughout The Writing Class, that made me envious of Willett's observational powers and skill at crafting her observations into words. Amy Gallup of course gets the most page space, and as her own life story emerges in dribs and drabs until we have the whole complex human being laid out before us, we also get to see into her mind, which is the mind of a gifted if jaded writer with powerful skills of observation and analysis, making the entire book suspect as an exercise in meta-fiction if we make the mistake that Amy Gallup advises her students not to make, and infer too much about an author from her characters.

On another level, The Writing Class is damned funny for anyone who's dabbled in being a writer, whether you're a published author or an MFA student or just someone who's taken a workshop or two. It's not accurate to say Willett "skewers" the writing industry, as she obviously has a great love for real writing, and like Amy Gallup, she has genuine affection for those who truly want to be writers, however hapless most of them may be. But there's a true-to-life cynicism in Amy's assessment of her students and their work (Willett actually presents excerpts from each student, written in a variety of styles and levels of skill, an accomplished feat of writing in itself) and the sort of people who take writing classes.

Purely as a murder mystery, The Writing Class also worked well for me. I confess: I didn't guess the murderer. I thought I knew who it was by the end of the book, but I was wrong. I was a little worried that Willett would pull some gimmick out of her ass like some mystery writers do, but no, when the culprit was revealed, everything made sense, and I skimmed back over the incidents involving each suspect and agreed that it fit. (Though I still think my guess was reasonable too.)

I'd never heard of Jincy Willett before I read this book, and now I want to seek out her other books. It was an unexpected surprise, and gets my highest recommendation, especially if you are a would-be writer. I want to take a writing workshop by Amy Gallup! Without the murders, hopefully.
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