There are a few writers I enjoy reading just for the joy of their prose. In fact there are some writers out there that I would read peanut butter labels if they wrote them. I mean that quite seriously. It seems that the art of writing is disappearing from the world and sitting down to read a book that has lovely prose as well as a good, or even great, story is becoming rare. Louis Bayard is one of those writers. His words flow together beautifully, he is erudite and his latest work THE SCHOOL OF NIGHT is a joy.
Bayard has skillfully played with setting in The School of Night, giving us both a modern day thriller and an Elizabethan mystery, and he has brought them together with seamless ease. The modern part centers around the death of Alonso Wax, a document collector, rumored to possess a very desirable letter by no less than Sir Walter Raleigh. The letter would prove the existence of the School of Night, a secret club of intellectuals who knew that gatherings might cost them their lives. Henry Cavendish, a modern scholar, goes in search of the document, and along the way things are complicated by murder and … Well, if I tell you more, it will give away too much, and this is a novel to sit back and deliciously unwrap a layer at a time.
This is one of those books that is almost impossible to put into a single genre. Thriller? Yes, magnificently. Historical fiction? Oh, yes! Intellectual mystery? Definitely! It fits all of these and more, I would even toss it into that generalized “literature” category, in that it is pure and lovely prose. Writing for writings sake. I have to admit, that it is addicting reading, I love a book where I can fall into the language and just enjoy it for that. Anne Rice is another author who has wonderful words (although her last few books, story-wise, left something to be desired.) Perhaps that is why I go back and read Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Evelyn Waugh and Patrick O’Brian.
The School of Night is a fabulous read. Whether you are looking for the best of the intellectual thriller with a dash of historical fiction or just a wonderful work of fiction, this is the book for you. Louis Bayard is one of the best out there, a writer for readers, crafting a solid tale with enough historical fact to give it a solid feeling, characters that really live and breathe and a story that is riveting. I do have to warn you, make sure you have a little time when you pick up this book, because you won’t want to put it down until you’ve reached the end.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | Pages: 352 | Source: Publisher | Buy on Amazon