Leda and the Swan

Anna Caritj. Riverhead, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-525-54014-4
Caritj pulls off a smart twist on the campus novel in her thrilling debut. Leda believes herself to be the last person to have seen her classmate Charlotte Mask before Charlotte left a Halloween party and disappeared. As Leda tasks herself with piecing together the clues to Charlotte’s disappearance, she also contends with unease over a blacked-out night spent with her crush, Ian Gray, when Charlotte disappeared. Unsure how she woke up with a bloody lip, she wonders if he assaulted her. Though the opening scenes of Greek life and partying feel repetitive and stagnant, the remainder unfolds as an engrossing tale about the nature of consent, sexual violence, and performative activism, such as the bake sales and “group screams” put on by Leda’s sorority. As Leda’s obsession with finding Charlotte leads her to chilling discoveries, she starts to wonder if Ian might be involved in the disappearance. The book’s strength is in Caritj’s prose, as she builds a brilliant contrast between the quotidian nature of college life and postadolescent feeling of otherworldliness. There is the “mercurial glinting, like stars, from shiny cans of Natty Light,” and, on frat boys’ Halloween costumes: “Only one wore a toga, but all four held themselves like small-town gods.” This thoughtful exploration of contemporary sexual politics hits the spot. Agent: Madison Smartt Bell, Ayesha Pande Literary. (May)
Reviewed on : 01/25/2021
Release date: 05/04/2021
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-0-525-54016-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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