Monday, 30 June 2014

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Night Film
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Series: Standalone
Published by Random House on August 20 2013
Genres: Mystery, Adult Fiction,
Pages: 602
Rating: 5/5 stars
Everybody has a Cordova story. Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn't been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an engima. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father. 
On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty. 
For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid. 
The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lost his grip on reality. 

I don’t really like mystery novels. I’m not drawn to them the way I am to fantasy or contemporary. This may be partially because I’m dreadful at figuring out what is going on before it is all explained to me, which makes me feel kind of dumb. A regular Sherlock Holmes I am not. So I was surprised to discover that I really, really wanted to read Night Film. So much so that when I saw it on my cart at the library whilst shelving books, I knew that I had to check it out and start reading it right away, despite the five or six other library books awaiting me at home. I started reading it that night, and finished it the next afternoon.

This book was a lot of things, but it was never boring. I thought that Pessl did a marvellous job of keeping the pacing up through such a hefty book – this thing is just over six hundred pages long! I had no idea what to expect, but I was not ready for it to get so freaking creepy – I read the scenes at The Peak at two in the morning when I was home alone, and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest when my mum got home and knocked on my door. I couldn’t bear to put it down until I knew that everyone was safe (at least for the time being).

Some of the reviews I’ve read mentioned being disappointed by the ending, which I completely understand. The ending of Night Film isn’t for everyone, but it worked for me. I liked the ambiguity, the way that everything wasn’t wrapped up nicely with a shiny red bow. I liked that there was room for interpretation, that like the characters we can choose to believe whichever story works best for us as readers. It actually reminds me a little bit of the ending of Yan Martel’s Life of Pi in that sense.

The only thing I didn’t care for about Night Film was the protagonist. I never really gave a damn about Scott McGrath. I never felt more than lukewarm about him as a character, whereas the rest of the cast were excellent – I loved Hopper and Nora and most of all Ashley. I think the problem I had with Scott was that he thought very highly of himself and was judgemental of everyone else. He was also a pretty crappy father. He viewed Sam as an afterthought, as an inconvenience. I completely understand why Cynthia made the decision she made and I don’t think that Scott deserved her forgiveness. I wish there would have been more character development on Scott’s part. He was just as obsessed with Cordova, to the detriment of every other aspect of his life, at the end of the book as he was at the beginning. Also, I don’t understand how he had so much money to throw around. He’s a disgraced journalist, so it’s not like he’s had steady work over the last few years…

Finally, it’s impossible to write a review of Night Film without mentioning Pessl’s use of multi-media. Throughout the book there are news articles and blog posts and photographs and web pages all created (or doctored) just for this book. Some of the images are truly haunting, and it really added to the experience. It’s hard to believe that Stanislas Cordova is not a real person and that his films and fanbase are entirely fictitious. I really commend what Pessl has created with this book, and am interested to see what she does next (also I need to check out her first book, as I hear it caused quite a stir and received many accolades when it was released).

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