This is the story of a group of classics students at a small New England liberal arts school. The main character is Richard, who has a difficult relationship with his parents for suburban California. He joins a small group of other students under the tutelage of the Classics professor, Julian, and they take almost all of their coursework with him. Julian is very charming and appreciates the young people in his group. They talk about big, philosophical issues raised from the coursework. He sees the best in them, but also has a lot of subtle influence on them.
Richard is determined not to tell the others in his clique that he is poor, as most of the others come from wealthy backgrounds. He struggles to live on a shoestring while good naturedly being carried along by some of the others. There is a lot of drinking, and as the story progresses, a lot of interpersonal drama. We learn pretty early on that one of the students in the group was murdered. Slowly over the course of the book we learn what led up to this event, how it happened, and the aftermath with the police and student’s family. It is not a mystery in the usual sense. It is more of a psychological and social study.
As we go through the days, weeks and semesters much of what happens seems familiar, college parties, work study, dorm life, but it was also somewhat surreal. It was about the characters and their interaction in that closed group. I listened to the audio version of the book, which was read by the author, much of it told in a retrospective mater of fact tone. This no doubt contributed the the story’s grip. At a number of points during the story I marveled that I was engaged with a narrative where there was not a ton of action or mystery. Basically, the book was just that well written. It is not a book for everyone, but many will enjoy it.