2013, Books, Fiction

The Dilettantes (2013) by Michael Hingston

Full Disclosure: This novel was written by a friend of my brother’s. When I was younger, I reviewed everything without regard to who created it and so wrote some reviews of music made by friends that I didn’t love, though I couldn’t tell them this to their faces because I’m a coward. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that personal relationships are more important to me than the supposed “integrity” of a review I’ve written and that, if I don’t have anything nice to say about something a friend or colleague has created, I shouldn’t say it unless I’m asked to. Though I don’t know Michael Hingston personally, it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be reviewing this novel if I didn’t like it.

Every college novel I have ever read is set at a small, liberal arts college in either the US or England. Those novels resonate with us I believe, in part, because of their idealization of the college/university experience. This novel is set at a (real) commuter school, which is pretty rare, in the genre.

If that was the only notable thing about it, though, I think it would just be a unique spin on a tired genre. But this novel is both funny and affecting. And though my own personal experiences were much closer to the idealized liberal arts experience depicted in other college novels (lucky me!), I felt like I could really connect to Alex and his experiences, in spite of personality differences.

It is a pretty great accomplishment to make a commuter school experience resonate in this way and I really enjoyed it.

There are a few flaws, as there are with every novel. A few things didn’t make sense to me – a couple of lines I couldn’t figure out and the structure was curious – but these are nitpicks. For the most part, this is great stuff and if you like college novels, or you are looking for a college novel that’s not set in a typical setting, you should really check this out.


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