Night Film – Marisha Pessl

Posted 28 October, 2014 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 21 Comments


night filmTitle: Night Film
Author: Marisha Pessl
Published: 2013 Pages: 587
Genre: Fiction/Mystery
Rating: Good then boring then good again

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: When a horror film director’s daughter is found dead from apparent suicide, reporter Scott McGrath digs deep into the seedy underworld to try to put meaning to Ashley Cordova’s death.

Why I Read It: Because other book bloggers raved and raved about it. I bought my shiny new copy the day before I went into labor with Evie.

Thoughts in General: Mysteries and thrillers aren’t books that I naturally gravitate toward. Honestly I’m not sure why. I don’t mind watching them on TV or movie format (though I will zone out during any and all chase scenes), and Law and Order SVU is one of my favorite shows. This book is very much like Law and Order SVU (except we follow around the reporter rather than police detectives). While reading Night Film, I decided that maybe I’m too impatient or too easily bored with mystery and would rather watch it over an hour rather than spend several days following clues. Either way, I was reminded that mysteries and thrillers really aren’t my favorite kinds of books.

Let’s start with the good first. Of course all spoiler free.

  • Night Film is a gorgeously constructed book. I could not stop touching the pages as they feel so luxurious. Night Film is told from the point of view of McGrath but in addition to his narration, articles, pictures, websites, and other forms of media are included. I loved the smashing together of all the different media and it really helped pull me into the story–especially as try to understand Stanislav Cordova’s nightmarish background and films.
  • There is also a Night Film app that I chose not to download as I didn’t want to be pulled away from the text (and that twitter button on my phone is way too tempting).
  • I really enjoyed the writing and thought that Pessl did a great job of showing me into the world that she created. See some quotes below–her writing is so moody and atmospheric.
  • One lengthy scene (at The Peak, for those who have read) in the middle-end that was intense and thrilling and heart-stopping. I literally jumped several times when interrupted during my reading of this part.

Some things that flat out didn’t work for me.

  • The overuse of italics. For no apparent reason.
  • The length of the book. Seriously, a good 200 pages could have been cut.
  • The hodgepodge team of characters including some very stereotypical behaviors and actions
  • The chase. So many steps and clues and coincidences and leads and deadends. I grew bored and tired from it all.

But really. The writing was rather satisfying, at least.

Some Quotes:

“How elusive she was, how she shape-shifted, seemed composed of as many rival creatures as the tattoo. Head of a dragon, body of a deer. Inclinations of a witch. She was Orlando’s flashlight in the dark behind us, a pinprick of light in the violent downpour, dogging Hopper, dogging me. She was a beacon of mysterious origin and intention, impossible to determine if heading toward me or away. What, really, was the difference between something hounding you and something leading you somewhere” (353).

“’A Tornado knocks a house down, killing the owner, and it’s a tragedy. Then you learn a serial killer lived there and the same act becomes a miracle. The truth about what happens to us in this world keeps changing. Always. It never stops. Sometimes not even after death’” (420).

“Horror gripped me once again. It actually had a face and legs, a massive beast with skin of black rubber, a bony spine, and it was perched right beside me, waiting for me to give up hope so it could feast upon me” (474).

Bottom Line: If I had not bought myself a shiny new hardcover copy last year, I likely would have abandoned Night Film. In the end I’m glad I finished it, but I recommend it with reservations. If you pick it up, get ready for one heck of a ride—though it is a long ride.

Linking this up with Carl’s Readers Imbibing Peril IX (book links here)

Do you like mysteries and thrillers? What are some of your favorites?


21 Responses to “Night Film – Marisha Pessl”

  1. I read her first book and loved the first half, then threw it across the room at one (frustrating) point and never picked it up again. Too much angst. I may still try this one but it sounds like I’ll need to be prepared to get over the middle hump.

  2. I really loved this book. Ben is reading it right now and he keeps complaining about the italics (I don’t remember noticing them). He has a theory that if you wrote them all down, it would be a message.

  3. I was thinking about reading this book, but wow. I didn’t know it was almost 600 pages long and not too sure if I want to read it that badly.

  4. I haven’t read this one, but I do generally like mysteries and thrillers. I think you might like Dorothy Sayers’ Wimsey and Vane ones? But you don’t like series, hm. Maybe just read Gaudy Night? Or Tana French. This all assuming you haven’t read these … yikes.

    Both of these are more literary, and more character driven, than many/most.

  5. I borrowed this from the library when it was released, but didn’t get a chance to read it. Somehow I never checked it out again, and probably won’t at the is point.

    Even though I don’t read many mysteries, I’ve enjoyed Laura Lippman, Tana French, and the first Maisie Dobbs book. Dorothy Sayers is on my kindle.

  6. so many things I want to comment on with this post:
    1. I’m like you with mystery/thriller novels. Absolutely adore them in tv shows and movies but I rarely pick them up as books. I have to really be in the mood. However, when I do, I really enjoy them and wonder why I don’t pick them up more often.
    2. I love books that get you all emotional (such as you jumping) as if the writing as real life.
    3. Don’t you just hate books that are too long? Sometimes enough is enough already! Its as if an author feels they may never write another book again and they have to keep writing and writing this particular one. Sometimes I’ll jump ahead whole sections, keep reading and the reading doesn’t skip a beat. Didnt miss a thing. The same with the characters. Sometimes there are just too many and its confusing. I stopped reading a novel this week because I couldn’t keep the perspectives straight as the author kept switching. Normally I like books with different perspectives but more than 4, I think, and its too much.
    4. I really like how you write your reviews. The different sections you use are interesting. :)

  7. You have more patience than I do! I don’t know if I would have stuck with a book I wasn’t sure I would enjoy. I am one of the ones who loved Night Film when I read it. The writing was gorgeous and I loved the format of the book, not to mention the story. But then, I love mysteries and thrillers.

  8. I love mysteries but never did get to this one. I still have it on audio and in print … one of these days, perhaps.

  9. I liked this one but I agree that you are in for a long haul! I have to feel that so much of the length is Pessl trying to establish ambiance but I think she did that well in just a short time. She didn’t really need to keep re-establishing it!

  10. Tu

    I loved this one. I read it primarily at night, in bed, and was sufficiently spooked every time I picked it up. I was a film major before changing my major to Communications so I really got into all the film stuff. The ARC was less lovely but the pictures were more grainy and the effect was startling at times, to turn the page and see a large face, etc.

  11. I’ve been curious about this one since people raved when I was released. Sounds like a good one to save for a time when I want a long chunkster.

  12. I’ve heard really good things about this one, but yeah, the length puts me off a bit. I remember starting it on my kindle while on vacation and I was at 1% for such a long time! Ha ha … I’m not one for thrillers, either. I like horror books, but I find that people put mysteries and thrillers in that category and it’s just not the same. Glad you enjoyed it at least!

  13. Your review fits with much of what I’ve heard about this book, after the initial hullabaloo wore off–which is decidedly mixed. I think it’s a pass for me, but it sounds like the author did some very interesting things by incorporating other forms of media, etc. Yay for experimentation and pushing the boundaries!

  14. I think it’s interesting that you think you stuck with it because you bought it whereas I got it at the library and I DNFed it rather quickly. I agree that thrillers is one category where I only like it in one medium (film/tv). I am not really a fan of many thriller books unless they have something supernatural in them (like Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s books).

  15. I liked this one a lot, particularly in the moment. After I spent some time thinking about it, the flaws started to come at me pretty fast (oh so many loose ends!). And, yes, those italics. Why????