For many of us, especially those who happen to be students, parents or teachers, September means the beginning of the school year and time to recoup those IQ points shed over the summer. Even those of us who haven’t darkened the door of a classroom in decades still often retain a dim memory of the rhythm of semesters, quarters, midterms and finals.
It is with this in mind that we draw your attention to the following works of adult fiction that take place in and around schools, colleges, universities and other institutions of learning, all available from Montgomery County Public Libraries.
“The Topeka School”
By Ben Lerner
To all appearances, Adam Gordon, a 1997 graduating senior at Topeka High School, is far from lost. He is an excellent student and a champion debater who is expected to earn a college scholarship. His success also extends to his social life. As one of the cool kids, he is ready to do anything to maintain his position and avoid being perceived as weak. The novel explores the cracks in this façade, which are exposed as Adam introduces the lonely and socially awkward Darren Eberheart into his circle with less than positive results.
“My Oxford Year”
By Julia Whelan
Ella Duran has always had one central goal: to study at Oxford. At 24 she succeeds in winning both a Rhodes Scholarship and the guarantee of a position on an up-and-coming politician’s presidential campaign. Her whole life is laid out before her, and it looks pretty great. That is until her priorities are called into question by an encounter with a charming man who comes bearing a bit of baggage. Suddenly, Ella must decide whether to follow her heart or walk away and continue pursuing her well-conceived and sensible plan for her life.
“My Brilliant Friend”
By Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein
The first of Ferrante’s four Neapolitan novels introduces Elena and her friend Lila, who grow up in the poverty and privation of postwar Italy in the 1950s. They are both excellent students — Lila is somewhat of a child prodigy — and initially, they meet as competitors. A friendship is formed as the two bond over a naive and foolhardy attempt to confront a loan shark, whom they believe has stolen from them. It is this event that becomes central to the action of the novel, interspersed with the events of their daily lives as children.
Written by Alan Hecht, librarian at White Oak Library. This story first appeared in our August-September 2021 issue.