My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
It has been 20 years since Kersti Kuusk set foot on the grounds of the Lycée, the prestigious boarding school she attended as a teen. Kersti was a scholarship student from Canada at the elite school, and she left abruptly in her senior year, after her best friend, Cressida, fell from her balcony one evening. The school declared the event an accident, but now, Kersti finds herself unconvinced. A timely letter from another of her school friends brings up more questions: was Cressida pushed, or did she attempt suicide? Kersti knows that Cressida had become increasingly obsessed with a secret society within the Lycée--banned since the 1970s when two of its members were expelled. As the school plans a celebration of its 100th anniversary, Kersti considers returning. She also starts looking further into Cressida's fall. However, some secrets are meant to stay buried.
THE FINISHING SCHOOL is told in alternating chapters between the present day and Kersti's school years, leading up to Cressida's fall from the balcony. This effective technique certainly creates tension and suspense, leading you to madly flip the pages, trying to figure out what happened - particularly to Kersti's group of friends at the Lycée twenty years ago. The novel pulls you in fairly quickly and hooks you rather rapidly. Goodman is quite adept at capturing the voices of her characters, especially the teens, and the boarding school passages are rather effective. (They are also great at making you want to never send your child to boarding school. Parts of it reminded me of Tana French's THE SECRET PLACE in that way.)
For me, the only thing that held this book back was that some of the plot was a little weird: mostly some of the things relating to Kersti's personal life and her obsession with Cressida. They didn't necessarily seem required for the story to be successful, but they bothered me. It's a shame, because overall I liked Kersti, and I felt a connection with her. Present-day Kersti is suffering from infertility, and, as someone who has been there, I can say that Goodman captures that angst very well. I just wasn't sure about some of her choices.
At times, some of the school drama gets a little tedious, but it picks up as the novel gains momentum, especially near the end. I figured out parts of the plot, but not all of it, and I was quite frantic to finish the last portions of the book to put it all together. It's quite a dark and twisted tale, overall. Certainly worth a read. 3.5 stars.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 04/11/2017.
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