Night Film – My Thoughts

NightFilmWhatever your opinion of Cordova, however obsessed with his work or indifferent – he’s there to react against. He’s a crevice, a black hole, an unspecified danger, a relentless outbreak of the unknown in our overexposed world. He’s underground, looming unseen in the corners of the dark. He’s down under the railway bridge in the river with all the missing evidence, and the answers that will never see the light of day. – from Night Film, Prologue –

Marisha Pessl’s latest novel, Night Film, is a dark noir tale about a mysterious film director (Stanislaw Cordova) and his gifted daughter, Ashley. When Ashley is found dead in a run down building in New York, her death is ruled a suicide. But for investigative reporter Scott McGrath, Ashley’s death looms as suspicious. McGrath’s history with Cordova is tangled and toxic, and McGrath is determined to not only uncover the circumstances behind Ashley’s untimely death…but to reveal who Cordova is as a man.

I started reading this book at the end of September. It is a chunkster at more than 600 pages, but I thought it would be the perfect airplane read as it was touted as a page turner – a breathless and terrifying novel of suspense. Unfortunately, I found the book to be a laborious read. Pessl’s narrative unravels through the limited point of view of McGrath who painstakingly tracks down evidence of Ashley’s life right before her death. There are bizarre reports of witchcraft, dark magic, and unsavory characters. McGrath is joined by a questionable guy who had a history with Ashley (Hopper) and a naive, homeless woman named Nora. The threesome follow dubious leads and question the people who knew Ashley the best. I found myself growing tired of this endless investigation.

I read nearly 400 pages of this book before giving up. I just did not care enough about Ashley, her father, or the other characters to learn the final mystery of Ashley’s death.

I wanted to love this book. But, I do think it is overwritten and could have been edited down to about half its size in order to speed up the narrative and hold the suspense better. Sadly, I never fully engaged with the plot which felt contrived to me.

I have read some interesting reviews of this book since laying it aside. The Washington Post found it to be a “rambling exploration of the way pop culture infects our expectations, our concepts of reality.” While The New York Times observed that “this book was more exciting to write than to read.”

I can’t recommend this one.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

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    • Ti on October 23, 2013 at 13:23

    Just so you know, you stopped right at the point when it gets really good. I loved it, but that’s me and I like wordiness.

  1. I’ve read quite a few books lately that I felt could have been improved if they’d been shorter. I find wordiness and too many details tedious. I had a feeling this book wasn’t for me.

  2. I felt very much the same, and I ended up pushing to the end…which I didn’t find redeeming. I was SO hoping for a great, twisty novel – but to do that you need to make me at least feel engaged with your characters. The only one’s I cared about were the Cordovas, and that didn’t help.

  3. I have this but I’ve been waiting for the hoopla to settle down before I read it. I’m actually glad to see a differing opinion in your review. It actually takes a bit of pressure off of me to love it as much as most of the people I know have. Now I feel better knowing that if I don’t adore it I’ll have company. Who knows but you’ve made me less nervous about reading it.

  4. I only made it to about page 120 and I put it aside. I just couldn’t get into it. Too wordy is the best description for it. Plus I hadn’t taken to the characters by that point either. I’m going to keep my copy and try again in the future, but it wasn’t working for me at this point in time.

  5. I’m half way through this at the moment and am loving it. I’m listening to the audio version, which I initially found weird as I felt I was missing something. I then realised the book had lots of photos and so got hold of the hardback from the library. I started reading the paper version and didn’t get on with it at all. I found it poorly written and overly long. So I switched back to the audio and it is working perfectly again. It is one of those strange books that works in one format, but not another!

  6. I appreciate your honest review of this one, Wendy. It cannot be a winner for everyone…especially a style like this one. I’m curious where I’ll fall on the love/hate continuum. 🙂

    • tanya on October 25, 2013 at 06:11

    I tend to with everything you said. The story took too long to unravel and the investigative threesome seemed an unlikely grouping. At times i felt that it fell into the same category as Dan Brown. It was disappointing because Special Topics in Calamity Physics was so great.

    • Anne Simonot on October 27, 2013 at 11:22

    I thought it didn’t quite live up to the hype (I read two rave blogger reviews). Nor did the story play out in as dark a way as the Cordova “legend” made me think it would. It was pretty unrealistic, in fact, and the ending was a bit of a letdown. Having said that, I did enjoy it, even if for me it wasn’t a five-star book.

    • susan on October 27, 2013 at 18:52

    Yikes! I’m glad I’ve steered clear of this one so far. It doesn’t really sound like one for me. There’s better books to fry … so to speak.

    • Nish on November 12, 2013 at 05:33

    Sad this book didn’t work for you. I read this book and liked it a lot. It did have its flaws. McGrath was one of them, but overall it worked well. I even liked the tame ending as in between I thought the book was going over-the-top with the occultism, and it was nice to see it enter saner territory in the end.

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