Title: Ghosts of Harvard
Author: Francesca Serritella
Age Group: Adult
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I won this book through the Goodreads First Reads program—many heartfelt thanks to the publisher, Goodreads, and the author for the free book!
So, I’d like to start this review by confessing something: When I won this book, I had no idea who Francesca Serritella was. The only thing I knew was that several of my reviewer and book-loving friends were dying to get their hands on it. I decided to swap with someone from Facebook once I finished. My second confession? I finished this book over a week ago, and I’ve been mulling it over in my head ever since. Truth be told, I still haven’t completely untangled my thoughts. A lot of people have called this debut novel a mystery and a thriller, but I feel like that description is a bit basic. This was a mystery, of a gothic sort, with a healthy dose of historical fact thrown in for good measure. I never imagined I would know such a storied and prestigious school so intimately, all of its hidden horrors and dark history. I loved every strange, terse moment of this beautifully written novel; some of the scientific elements were kind of lost on me at first, but I very much enjoyed this book! Dark, chilling, thought-provoking, I loved Ghosts of Harvard! Definitely one of my favorite books of 2020!
Candence ‘Cady’ Archer is a young woman who has never felt so bereft; her older brother and best friend, Eric, committed suicide over a year ago, in the worst throes of mental illness; specifically, schizophrenia. Missing him with every fiber of her being and desperate for the answers to Eric’s untimely death, she convinces her parents to let her go to Harvard. When she arrives at the school, she’s soon dealing with stressful exams, an evil professor who seems to be out to get her, and trying to navigate tricky relationships with her new roommates. But in searching for answers about Eric, Cady might just unearth some secrets that could kill her—literally...
This book! I finished it over a week ago and I’m still not quite sure what to say about But I will say that I wish all mysteries were like this one: thought-provoking, dark, shocking and more than a little chilling. I love mysteries that have me thinking on the most basic building blocks of life: life and death, and whether both states are permanent, ghosts, mental illness and the toll it takes on individuals and families alike, as well as the dark and sordid history behind America’s past. As I said, there were several times that I had to go back and reread the scientific parts to fully understand what was going on. Nonetheless, I like my mysteries a little more cerebral anyway. I love the feeling that I’m learning about something new, even when I’m reading fiction. The atmosphere, too, was compelling; I felt like I was exploring the storied university right along with Cady, questioning her sanity when she begins to hear more than one voice. That was one of her brother’s first symptoms. I loved, also, how this book tenderly and very realistically portrayed mental illness. This book was very well-researched; at first, I was a bit leery; all too often, fiction on mental illness can veer into something more like a caricature than a character. (Talk about one heck of a tongue-twister with that one!) I loved the way Serritella wove together four distinct timelines: that of Cady, her brother Eric, and her parents, Whit, the fiercely hopeful and gentle WWII soldier, and Bilhah, a desperate slave in need of Cady’s help. This book was beautifully written, and honestly, as someone who’s dealt with mental illness, very emotional! I loved all of the characters in this novel, but I will say that Cady’s parents, at times, made me want to rip my hair out. Nonetheless, I don’t want to say too much about the plot; I don’t want to spoil it! The bottom line: Tender, surprising, and beautifully written, I loved Ghosts of Harvard! Next on deck: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center!