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The Idiot // Elif Batuman

The Idiot // Elif Batuman

Synopsis (**Taken from Goodreads**)

The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings.

At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan's friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin's summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer.

My Thoughts // Review

I have mixed feelings regarding this novel. I really loved it. And, I also found it very odd. It seemed edgy and artsy. But also lovely and tender. I’m having a more difficult time writing this review, than I have for any other book I’ve read, so I’m going to write this review in more of a list formatting.

What I Liked: 

  • I liked the darker, caustic, sarcastic sense of humor
  • I enjoyed the various philosophical conversations that Selin had both in her own head, and with others
  • I really enjoyed the setting. I love reading books about the college years, because that was such a fun time in my own life, that I love reliving it vicariously through fictional characters
  • I loved the comments on the differences between the Turkish language & the English language. This was FASCINATING.

What I Disliked:

  • Although I liked the sarcastic writing style, it made it very difficult to enjoy Selin's character. I never felt connected to her, and this was my biggest issue. It made it so difficult to ever feel fully invested in the novel.
  • About halfway to three quarters of the way through, I also became annoyed with the other main character, Ivan, making it (again), difficult to be fully invested.

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

**Thank you to NetGalley & the publisher, Penguin Press, for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review**


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