Review: The Writing Class

Jincy Willett (2008)

I’ve taken writing classes and know a number of people who teach writing, so when I heard about a new book set in a writing class, I was instantly intrigued. It wasn’t until I’d picked up my reserve copy from the library that I learned it was a mystery as well as a comic novel about the trials and tribulations of leading a group of aspiring writers through their literary paces. Five pages in, I was laughing out loud and hooked.

It’s obvious that author Jincy Willett has taught a writing class or two in her time. She gets all the details right, from the flowery prose to the painful feedback sessions. Leading the class is Amy Gallup, a once promising and now failing novelist. She’s taught writing for years, not because she enjoys fostering new talent, she just needs the money. The Writing Class begins with the first week’s session; as Amy meets each of her students, so do we. They’re an amusing lot, and Willett successfully creates for each of them a unique personality and written voice.

Someone in the class has an ax to grind. As the weeks progress, a mystery student earns the nickname “The Sniper” when he (or she) begins taking anonymous verbal and written potshots at members of the group via phone calls, email, menacing blog comments and class pranks. The stakes rise considerably when a student dies mysteriously; the group bonds together, characteristically treating it like a thrilling murder mystery game.

As Amy tries to use her literary chops to unmask The Sniper, she struggles to keep from being drawn into the fold of this enthusiastic bunch. A cynical writer who prefers keeping to herself, Amy’s wry observations are genuine and hilarious; her internal struggle gives the book depth beyond a simple who dunnit. The Writing Class is quick and entertaining with a hint of Agatha Christie, making it perfect summer reading.

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