Wow wow wow. It’s been a long time since a book has terrified me. Not that, admittedly, it takes too much to scare the pants off me. (Says the girl who has left the cinema more than once during a PG movie).
When I picked up Jincy Willet’s The Writing Class, I didn’t expect too much. I thought it’d be an amusing read from the perspective of someone who’s done more writing classes than she can count. But I reckoned on a few clicheed characters, tips on using concrete metaphor, and a crazy old bat of a teacher.
And I got all that. But so much more.
The Writing Class opens on the first lesson, and one anonymous student’s harsh appraisal of the teacher. Amy Gallup, published author, pushing sixty, overweight and a self-professed agorophobe, is not your usual heroine. Her bitterness is a shock to begin with, but makes sense when details of her life are revealed. She pub;ished early, married her gay best friend for conveniance, and nursed him while he died of AIDS. She never wrote again after his death. She now lives alone bar a loveable but stinky basset hound called Alphonse, and runs writing classes for people she often detests to make ends meet.
This class, however, will be different.
The anonymous writer from the first chapter turns out to have a screw loose, due to having been rejected by publishing houses consistently and brutally for many years. Strange things start to happen to the class members – horrible letters, phone calls, pranks.
Then one member dies.
It’s 1am, and I’m alone in the house apart from Cleo. Do you blame me for feeling spooked?!
So, the anonymous killer victimises the writing class, who insist on continuing their tutorials, despite knowing one of them is a killer.
Did I mention that it’s now 1.30? I’ve been reading this book since 8pm yesterday. And I could not put it down and go to sleep. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I’ve stayed up into the wee hours because I couldn’t stop reading a book! Brilliance! I have happened upon brilliance!
In addition to the twisted plot that keeps you guessing until the very end (well, I did anyway. Maybe you’re all smarter than me and will figure out the culprit far earlier!), the writing is spot on. Characterisation to (haha) die for. Despite Amy’s initial introduction as a corpulent, bitter old woman, I was pretty much in love with her by half way through. She is just so real.
I’ve also just finished reading Plan B by Jonathan Tropper, which was a lot more lightweight but just as enjoyable. While it wasn’t classic overall, in the same way I feel The Writing Class is, there were definitely a few classic lines. I will finish by sharing them.
“Your problem is that you always want things to be so clear cut. You always want the situation to define itself in absolute terms. Otherwise you’re scared you won’t know how to feel.”
“Our generation is the first for whom pop culture is our first frame of reference… We might say someone is extrenely large and muscular, but we might just as easily say he looks like Schwarzenegger. People’s names are becoming common, descrobing nouns that are universally recognised. Our language is evolving along with our frame of reference. It’s becoming less descriptive and more visual. We don’t describe with words. We describe by referencing a comparable image.” (The “like” generation!)
“If you don’t change direction soon, you’re liable to end up where you’re heading.”