Europa. Aug. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9781609459307. pap. $18. THRILLER
Chidgey’s latest novel (following Remote Sympathy) is a revelation in slow suspense and character study. The tension built and layered here is exquisitely painful. It’s 1984, and Justine is 12 years old, growing up in New Zealand. She’s coping with seizures she thought she’d grown out of, missing her recently deceased mother, and helping her father in his antiques shop. She and her best friend, Amy, are smitten with their glamorous new schoolteacher Mrs. Price, and they’re not alone: everyone wants to be the teacher’s pet. Mrs. Price is young, vibrant, and charismatic; she makes each student want to feel the warmth of her public approval and work hard to avoid her seemingly capricious displeasure. When a class thief starts targeting students’ treasured belongings, suspicions are raised, and fingers pointed. Justine’s character is tested and stretched as her life is upended.
VERDICT This title is excellent for book clubs. Highly accessible, with a variety of engaging topics to discuss (racism, Catholicism, disability, bullying, death), it will resonate with fans of psychological thrillers and dark academia.
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