12 May 2009

Review: THE WRITING CLASS, Jincy Willett

Scribe Publications, 2008, ISBN 9781921372117, 326 pages.

Amy Gallup teaches an adult writing class as a university extension. It is a fiction workshop and they will meet weekly for 9 weeks. From the start Amy has problems. She doesn't really enjoy starting off with a new group of people, and there are 15 names on her list, and 16 people in the room. Carla, the one person who has attended one of her classes before, is missing on the first night. When Amy gets home on the night of the first class, a heavy breather has left whispered fragments on her answering machine.

By the third class it is obvious there is someone in the class who isn't quite what they seem. As the class continues, this person, identity still unknown, selects victims with cruel comments on their manuscripts, and practical jokes. And then one of the class dies.

It is obvious that Jincy Willett has brought considerable experience in conducting writing classes to the writing of this book, with keen observations, and realistic scenarios. It reminded me quite a lot of classes I attended a couple of years ago, although Amy was much more demanding of her students than my teacher was.

However for me, the book became a little long. I desperately wanted to get on and hunt down The Sniper, the perpetrator of all the nasty deeds, including by the end more than one murder. And from that standpoint the last hundred pages just didn't move fast enough. It felt like Jincy Willett had a lot of material she wanted to include, and we were going to get it whether we liked it or not. I became increasingly annoyed by the fact that I felt there weren't enough hints about who the villain was.

Bernadette in Reactions to Reading says " I’m not sure this book is really crime fiction" and I am inclined to agree with her. I think the crime elements take a back seat to the other things that Willett is writing about. But Bernadette obviously enjoyed it.

My rating : 4.2

Other reviews:
  • Lost in Books liked it better than me: "a funny, well-crafted mystery, very worthy of reading".
  • It's Criminal: Heen says it is "alive with humour, there is an underlying poignancy too."
I never did finish reading THE WRITING CLASS in time for my face to face discussion. Back on that post though there is a large copy of the novel's cover, which make a fascinating subject in itself.

Jincy Willett claims to be "An aging, bitter, unpleasant woman living in Escondido, California, who spends her days parsing the sentences of total strangers and her nights teaching and writing. Sometimes, late at night, in the dark, she laughs inappropriately."
That statement fits pretty well with the rather quirky sense of humour that emerges in THE WRITING CLASS.


Anonymous said...

Chiming in here in the completley innapropriate place tosay that the ongoing story is developing into quite a ummm... story....

Dorte H said...

Kerrie, where are you?

No post from you for several hours - so you really ARE cutting down ;)

zski0502 said...

just read The Writing Class for our book club. My sister and I both had an "ah ha" moment in that we believed all the students to be "split personalities" of Amy's. Think about it!!! Why would the police not look into Frank's death more appropriately? (because it was Amy past out in a drunken moment who called the police from her own cell phone - thus the laughter between the police who would not take her seriously). I could go on and on ...


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