Monday, January 20, 2014

My Education by Susan Choi

Regina Gottlieb has come to do her graduate degree at a prestigious university set in the countryside. Her new friends are quick to warn her about the workload.  They warn her about the scandalous Professor Nicholas Brodeur, and the rumors of sexual misconduct that swirl around him   But no one warns her about the things that will really matter.  About Nicholas' beauty and ability to make anyone feel like the only person in the world.  About her friend/sometimes lover Dutra and how he insinuates himself into her life.  About Nicholas' wife, Martha, the most compelling person Regina has ever met.

Soon Regina finds herself enmeshed into a routine that spells disaster.  The work seems miles above her, yet she finds herself teaching classes about subjects she has never studied.  She is quickly drawn into the Brodeur's social circle and all her other relationships fall to the wayside.  As she becomes entangled in love triangles that constantly shift yet always leave behind more damage, she slips farther and farther into despair, her dreams of an academic life becoming more and more remote. 

This is the first part of An Education.  The novel picks back up in the second part fifteen years later, when Regina and the others have moved on to new, different and separate lives.  Only with the distance of time and geography is she able to reconcile what happened in her youth and start to build bridges to make what amends are possible.

Susan Choi has written a novel that is not always easy to read, but that captures completely the overwhelming life-wrenching change that love is for the young.  It is all that seems important, well researched lives and goals thrown haphazardly to the side as the individual pursues it.  Damage can be done and it can take years to reconcile that impulsive self-centered person with the more mature self that emerges when one grows older.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

1 comment:

Becca said...

I know that the first time I fell in love (which turned into my first engagement) I was 20 and it was so all-encompassing. We would skip going to classes and then wondered why we were on academic probation by the end of the semester. I mostly ignored friends in favor of spending every moment with him. It took me several years (and a passion for going into teaching, ironically) that finally got me out from the "spell" as I call it. I realized he wasn't even right for me anymore. Never since have I allowed myself to get swept up so completely and all-encompassing. Thank goodness. :) Sounds like a very interesting read that I would probably find myself identifying with.