Alexander Maksik's debut comes glowingly championed by Alice Sebold and heralded as a successor to Donna Tartt's The Secret History.
Such pre-emptive praise gives the book a lot to live up to. Apart from the troubling teacher-student dynamic at the heart of both stories, the comparison isn't immediately obvious: set against Tartt's lush and baroque writing, Maksik's prose exhibits a pared-down economy of style, forming a simple but compelling narrative of existential trauma and eventual, inevitable tragedy.
Maksik's characters are finely sketched, and the occasionally opaque nature of their motivations and obvious consequences of their actions are made to seem plausible, familiar and even sympathetic. The result is a measured and thought-provoking novel.