The style of Sweet Days of Discipline might be called deadpan mystificatory. There are no aids to grasping the connection between discipline, madness, and death which the novel seems to be proposing ... Jaeggy’s tone is abrupt, and there is a kind of dismissive haughtiness (not unlike Frédérique’s) about the way she leaves her readers to flounder, and about her carelessness too. Carelessness seems incongruous in a work that has perfection and perfectionism among its principal themes ... The short narrative—one hundred pages—is dotted with repetitions, loose ends, and unexplained transitions: How, for instance, does the narrator get to know of Frédérique’s attempt to incinerate her mother? And how does the mother manage to find the narrator? These flaws are irritating in a novel as free from fougue and as tight-lipped as this, and so is the literary name-dropping (beginning with Walser). But in spite of them, and because of its hypnotic intensity, this is a gripping, even haunting work: powerful and hard to shake off.
Jaeggy handles this plot with a fine contempt for both sentiment and conventional modes of dramatization...Even so, the torpid world of the Bausler Institut, where for the older girls 'a sort of senile childhood was protracted almost to insanity,' comes to life in Miss X’s compact monologue. The sentences are short, epigrammatic and filled with deadpan humor as well as something more wild and brooding. Miss X breathes the same air as the narrators of Samuel Beckett and Thomas Bernhard, but her manner, which somehow doesn’t seem mannered, is all her own. Muriel Spark’s more astringent, nouveau roman–style performances may be another starting place for comparisons—or maybe Ottessa Moshfegh’s delicious cruelties. Either way, Turgenev, in another life, might have found much to admire here.