Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Title: Night Film
Author: Marisha Pessl
Rating: ★★★
Summary: When Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse, her death is ruled a suicide, but investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years. Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath and two strangers are drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world. The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.


I’m not sure if I would have picked up Night Film had I not first read other Marisha Pessl novels—but I loved Special Topics in Calamity Physics and Neverworld Wake, and so perhaps went into Night Film expecting to love it just as much because Pessl wrote it. Her narrative tone is there, as well as her penchant for a plucky adolescent female protagonist, but in this one, Ashley doesn’t get to tell her own story. She dies at the beginning of the novel and so does her voice, her character only coming through via her relationships to other people. There’s the book’s narrator, Scott, who is investigating her death; Hopper, who knew Ashley as a teenager; and Stanislas Cordova, her father, who becomes almost more of an obsession to Scott than Ashley’s death. And on top of everything is the perception of Ashley, which morphs and twists depending on who’s talking and what they believe, but never really Ashley herself.

It’s not that I didn’t like Night Film, but perhaps that I was expecting one thing while it was another entirely. By the end of the novel, Pessl effectively wraps up the overarching mystery, but after finishing the book amidst a three-hour reading session, it didn’t sit right. I wanted her to continue making me feel physically uncomfortable, the way I felt while Scott was trapped in a seemingly endless maze of Cordova’s immaculate film sets, having to reconcile the vibrant movie scenes with their static physical counterparts. It’s the dissonance that I liked, the feeling like something is there, just out of reach, your eyes straining to make sense of shadow. Pessl wove this otherness so perfectly through Neverworld Wake, but it doesn’t quite work in Night Film because she doesn’t let us decide for ourselves what’s real. Instead of a definitive yes or no, I craved a maybe, that last lingering shot which reveals a sudden, subtle shift to everything that’s come before.

Would I recommend Night Film? Maybe. It’s just as lush and pleasantly overwhelming as her other work, the story sucking you in until you drop all other activities in favor of finishing, but I felt almost cheated by the end, all the hours I’d spent reading amounting to a that’s it? On one hand, Night Film works as a mystery novel; on the other, a meditation on obsession and celebrity and what an artistic creator owes to their fans. But Pessl’s attempts to imbue the novel with an eerie subtext, that hush of otherness, never quite took. Whenever she pulled back the curtain, I wanted to preserve the illusion.

Top Ten: Books I Meant to Read in 2018

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was books I meant to read in 2018.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green // Archenemies by Marissa Meyer // Breakout by Kate Messner // The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas // The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Night Film by Marisha Pessl // Sadie by Courtney Summers // There There by Tommy Orange // The Towering Sky by Katharine McGee // The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Top Ten: Books on My Winter TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was books on my winter 2018/19 TBR. These quarterly posts are my favorite to post: not only because I love to peek at what’s being published in the next few months, but also because I love the structure this kind of TBR provides. (Even though I almost never follow my own choices!)

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green // A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness // Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen // How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone by Brian McCullough // In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker // Night Film by Marisha Pessl // On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden // The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder // You Know You Want This: “Cat Person” and Other Stories by Kristen Roupenian

* ETA: Nasty Women by 404 Ink was replaced by In Cold Blood.

Top Fifteen: Horror Novels on My TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was a Halloween-themed freebie, so I decided to round up horror novels on my TBR. Because I apparently have more than ten (who knew?!), here are fifteen of the most ghoulish, creepy novels I have yet to read. 👻🎃

Damned by Chuck Palahniuk // Frankenstein by Mary Shelley // The Good Demon by Jimmy Cajoleas // Horns by Joe Hill // The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist // The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg // My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris // Night Film by Marisha Pessl // The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories by Robert Louis Stevenson // Universal Harvester by John Darnielle // We Eat Our Own by Kea Wilson // World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks // Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

Top Ten: Books by My Favorite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was books by my favorite authors that I still haven’t read – because oops life gets in the way. (Btw: this list is by no means exhaustive!)

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green // Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld // The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling // Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay // The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

Night Film by Marisha Pessl // Nimona by Noelle Stevenson // Origin by Dan Brown // The Towering Sky by Katharine McGee // What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America by Michael Eric Dyson

Top Ten: Books on My Summer TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was books on my summer TBR!

The Broken Vow by Scott Westerfeld // Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin // Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen // A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey // I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

Inferno by Dan Brown // Ms. Marvel, vol. 9: Teenage Wasteland by G. Willow Wilson // Night Film by Marisha Pessl // The Towering Sky by Katharine McGee // Vox by Christina Dalcher

Honorable mentions

Breakout by Kate Messner // Notes from My Captivity by Kathy Parks // There, There by Tommy Orange

Top Ten: Books on my Fall TBR List

logo-TopTenTuesday Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme was books on my fall to-be-read list.

Let’s just get this out of the way – I am probably not going to read all of these books. According to GoodReads, I only read an average of 1.2 books per month – but, hey! four of those 11 books were books two through five of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series – which boosts my average pages per month to 606. So maybe I’ll read more than, like, three books from now until the end of December.

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Captain America: Winter Soldier
vol. 1 & 2 by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting
I have been so totally infatuated with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and MCU and Sebastian Stan’s portrayal of the Winter Soldier since I saw the film in theaters that I just need to have some feels with the source material and then watch the movie in the dark with some tissues. Okay? Okay. 
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The Casual Vacancy
by J.K. Rowling
Because I haven’t yet? And it’s not Rowling’s most recent book anymore?? And I want to know what all the fuss was about???
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Is Everyone Hanging Out WIthout Me? (And Other Concerns)
by Mindy Kaling
A huge release in 2011 (can you tell that I am way behind the times on reading new releases???) but it’s been on my tbr list since it was published and it’s just, like, time, okay?
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Just One Day by Gayle Forman
This series was honestly not on my radar until I became a (kind of) official book blogger, but I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews AND three novels in the series are published, so I can binge read. (Yes!)
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Night Film by Marisha Pessl
The plot sounds AMAZING and I absolutely adored Pessl’s previous novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, so it’s sort of a given that I at least check out Night Film (if not fangirl over it as well).
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The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
“An architect is hired to build hideaways for Jews during World War II.” I mean, COME ON. This novel sounds awesome and intense and, like – history!
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Shadow of Night and The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! CAN. NOT. WAIT. TO. FINISH. THIS. SERIES.
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Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Mafi’s Shatter Me series is another trio that I’ve only heard about from other book bloggers, but everyone who’s read it has had über fangirl reactions – and, again, five novels are already published so binge reading, here I come!
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A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre
My one new release that also happens to be non-fiction – huzzah! I’m not a huge lover of non-fiction, but this book’s premise sounded too good to pass up.