Lisa Bradley’s campus-thriller, The Lesson, is a classic who-do-you-trust mixed with serious questions about issues facing students and staff at universities. Bradley has already created a signature pacing (see my Paper Dolls review) and it doesn’t let you slip away for a second here. Honestly, I was hooked.
Spoiler Free Synopsis
Evie is a second year literature student who (consensually) sleeps with a lecturer and decides to report it. All she really wanted was a new tutor group, now it’s spiralled out of control and someone has it out for her, but who?
Simon is the lecturer in question. He denies sleeping with Evie. He has a wife and a disabled child at home, along with an incoming book deal. Yes, he’s friendly with his students, but that shouldn’t be cause to lose his job, should it?
Jenny is also a lecturer, but one with a different outlook. Last year one of her tutees killed himself and she won’t let another one slip through her fingers. Overworked and lonely, Jenny devotes her life to her students, but is it too much?
Who do you trust? And what is the truth behind the secrets?
The Lesson is told from multiple narratives. First Evie, then Jenny, then Simon. Your allegiances shift with every chapter and it was interesting that I found myself feeling sorry for all three of them at different points in the novel and not really knowing where I’d end up. When it came down to the crunch I was pleased with my initial gut feeling but totally thrown off guard by the ending (a good thing!)
Bradley’s Jenny and Simon voices are fantastic, they’re very distinct and manages to keep them realistic. Even their thoughts marry up with their personalities.
I have a slight niggle with the voice of Evie, in that sometimes I feel like the dialogue is a little dated for a 19-year-old, for example the use of the word ‘minger’, I thought could have just been dropped and it would feel more natural. But honestly, that is my one and only criticism about The Lesson.
The minor characters too, are well rounded and important to the story, don’t underestimate them!
Bradley doesn’t question her readers’ intelligence by repeating information or over-describing. I think what really makes Bradley’s thrillers so readable is her pacing. Every chapter moves the story along with an a good amount of speed, but not too much.
The twists and turns keep you questioning. You really will never guess what’s going to come next and you’d have to be literally living inside the characters minds to guess the ending.
As well as being a thriller, The Lesson is a campus novel, which keeps it well contained and gives the story a grounded location, so the pace doesn’t overwhelm you.
Just like Paper Dolls, I’d recommend The Lesson to all thriller lovers and book groups.