“My Education” by Susan Choi is the story of a young woman’s poor sexual decisions and their impact on her life. Regina Gottleib is a 21-year-old graduate student. She’s young, naive, and inexperienced, and begins taking classes with Professor Nicholas Brodeur, whose reputation as a womanizer precedes him. Brodeur mentors Regina until she begins an affair with his wife. The story is broken into two main sections, one highlighting the affair itself, and then a flash forward to Regina’s life over a decade later.
When I first began reading, I found the language to be strange, because grad students don’t talk the way that Regina narrates her story. She uses academic language to describe mundane crushes and events. As the story progressed, the writing style grew on me, as it served to contrast the young Regina and the woman that she later becomes. It shows that even though she was kind of an ass in school, she matured and was able to become a productive member of society.
The hedonism and decadence portrayed in “My Education” remind me a lot of “The Great Gatsby,” even though the books are set in different time periods. Don’t let the sound of the plot put you off, even though much of the book is about a drunk college student behaving selfishly. Susan Choi is the type of writer who can take a scene about a college student vomiting at a party and make it beautiful. The plot itself is secondary to the expressiveness of the writing. One doesn’t read “Lolita” because of the subject matter, but rather because of Nabokov’s masterful prose and his ability to create complex characters who challenge readers’ perceptions and expectations. “My Education” is similar in that the narrator doesn’t view her actions as wrong. She feels justified in breaking up Nicholas and Martha’s marriage, and believes that she is really in love with Martha. At the same time, it’s painfully obvious that Martha is a volatile character who views Regina as a temporary amusement and will eventually become bored with her.
There’s only one thing about the book that I would change. I wish that Regina’s character were a year or two older. When she celebrates her 21st birthday, I became a bit distracted by her age, because generally one turns 21 in undergrad. She would have had to have skipped a grade in school or graduated early from undergrad, but that wasn’t made clear in any way. I realize it’s a very minor point to nitpick, but I’m prone to over analyzing details like that.
“My Education” is a vivid portrayal of lust, decadence, and regret. I’d highly recommend it.
And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for… GIVEAWAY! The publisher has agreed to sponsor a giveaway of the book. The giveaway is open to U.S. addresses only and will be open until 11:59 pm on July 16.
You can ENTER HERE.
I’m going to try the whole Rafflecopter thing this time and see how I like it. Rafflecopter doesn’t work on WordPress.com blogs, so I’m working around it by having it live on my blog’s Facebook page instead. Let me know if you have any input on whether this is better/worse than me drawing from a hat.