The Devil and Webster by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Review published on May 9, 2017.

On first glance, this looks like a fairly unassuming novel about an American College and its first female President. Nevertheless, it turned out to be one of the best novels I have read in recent years.

The main character, Naomi, becomes President of this liberal American College, but she soon finds herself embroiled in an escalating situation. Known for its forward thinking and tolerant views, the College (and Naomi herself) has always supported student demos and peaceful protests. However, she soon finds herself at odds with the student body, despite making every effort to empathise with them. Matters are complicated by her daughter Hannah, who is a student and who sides with the protesters.

I found this novel to be very well written and the characters engaging. It highlights the nature of modern university/college life and all the discussions and debates that go on. As Naomi discovers, despite best intentions, sometimes you find yourself on the wrong side of the argument. As matters head in an extremely difficult direction, Naomi also finds out that it can be extremely lonely in a position of power.

I would highly recommend this book; both as a personal read and there is also plenty here for a reading group discussion: politics, relationships, the challenges that face modern students.

Sue Hardiman 5/5

The Devil and Webster by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Faber & Faber 9780571327980 pbk Apr 2017

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