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Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight. Book review

June 12, 2020

Book cover of Hex

Nell Barber has her PhD in Biological Science terminated partway through (a constant breath-holding fear of any PhD student) through no fault of her own, which results in her removal from the university. But this hasn’t stopped her going ahead with the research that was started in the first place by Nell’s late compatriot, and the reason why Nell and her group were expelled from university.

Rebecca Dinerstein Knight nicely captures the despair of a young woman, who having invested so much of her time an effort into something which could be the making of her career, finds it unjustly taken away overnight. For anyone who has experienced a masters or PhD there is much to resonate with the experience, even though Nell’s world in this case is exaggerated to the extreme.

The sense of being cut off from the community of those who continue to glide through the system, and yet at the same time having exposure to them on a regular basis, nicely rubs salt in Nell’s emotional wounds.

The prose has a sense of a link to the heritage of The Ultimate Jest for its manic and well-chosen words of minute observation and In Grand Central Station… for the pathos and emotional heft of Nell’s obsession with her ex-supervisor Joan Kallas, as the author crafts her uncomfortable study of University relationships and politics.

The descent into madness as Nell tries to continue her lab mate’s work (which resulted in her unfortunate and untimely death) and the unravelling of Nell’s life, are both hilarious and excruciating at the same time. There are points where you don’t know whether to laugh or cringe.

Rebecca Dinerstein Knight’s writing never once seems to draw breath and rattles along at a such great pace you really have to hang on in there with your fingernails. But at the same time every paragraph is incredibly lucid and fluid.

There is a bit of a fall off towards the end of the energy evident in the earlier part of the book, but the author displays a great deal of poise and knowing in the way she deploys her words on the page. Indeed, it is no surprise she is also a poet.

I will certainly look forward to her next novel.

Hex was courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing via NetGalley

From → Book Review, Literary

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