This fourth novel by the National Book Award-winning author of Trust Exercise tells the story of Regina Gottlieb, a graduate student who finds herself in a love affair with the wife of her professor Nicholas Brodeur in a tale of romantic entanglements that Regina revisits fifteen years later as a married woman with a child—when she again feels the pull of desire.
Susan Choi's fantastic new novel...can be roughly described as an academic novel, but it pushes the form and makes it thrilling, not cozy ... The academic novel married to the novel of obsession is almost too pleasurable to contemplate, but that's what this book is. It's like caramel plus salt, that current snack food trend. And I bring up snack food here because My Education is an addicting read ... But I don't mean to say that this book is light; it isn't. It's dark and moody and intense ... the writing never falters, and I was never bored ... she beautifully explores the way a young person tries, and often fails, to navigate her budding and intersecting sexual, intellectual and emotional lives. The writing in this novel is masterful—but the book did something to me emotionally, too. I felt like I was in an obsessive relationship with it. I wanted to read it all the time. And it wasn't only the story, or the characters, or their passion. It was the excitement of reading a writer whose work reminds you—actually educates you—about the power of a really good novel.
Choi's sentences are dense: more happens on one page in My Education than in entire chapters of other books ... complex characters. Martha, in particular, is one of the finest fictional creations I've seen in a long time ... the ending...surprises ... Choi is fearless about moving her characters back into one another's lives. In so doing, she achieves something rare in real life: closure. An imperfect closure...of what's left after passion has burned itself away.
... elegantly written ... Lovers’ gender, Choi suggests, says little about emotional experience. This isn’t quite untrue, and you wouldn’t wish for a novel bogged down in identity politics. But there is something suspect ... Several earnestly heated sex scenes, for one, suggest otherwise. For even if psychologically we may ignore the facts of the body, sexually we depend upon them ... My Education shows...timidity with the relevant political stakes, perhaps to similarly apolitical effect ... the affair’s psychological effects on Regina, though made much of at the time, don’t reverberate deeply into her adulthood ... Choi is a graceful, perceptive writer, and all of her novels are striking for the visual beauty of her descriptions. At the same time, the somewhat indiscriminate attentiveness of her prose tends to plane smooth the texture of her narratives. A trivial dinner conversation in Choi’s hands receives the same careful scrutiny as a life-altering betrayal. The effect, in the end, is of a keen but somewhat purposeless talent. The more sweepingly Choi applies her considerable gifts, the more difficult it is to say what particularly matters to this writer and why.