Monday, 18 July 2011

Book Review: The Raising by Laura Kasischke

Product details:
Publisher: Corvus.
Release date: July 1st 2011.
Paperback, 480 pages.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Ages: Adult.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

A sudden death: In Godwin Honors Hall, the walls are draped in black. The college is in mourning for Nicole Werner, a blonde and beautiful prom queen who died in a car crash last semester. She was a straight-A student, and a prized member of the Virgin Sisters, the most powerful sorority on campus. A feverish obsession: Nicole's boyfriend Craig was at the wheel that night. He has no memory of the crash, but he is plagued by guilt. For as winter sets in and the nights darken, Nicole's death dominates college life. Candlelit vigils and fetishistic rituals become nightly events -and then the hauntings begin. A flicker of suspicion: Craig's roommate, Perry, doesn't believe in ghosts. A no-nonsense type who always thought Nicole was as manipulative as she was charming, he refuses to be swept up by the hysteria. But when he and his fellow sceptics join forces, he too sees Nicole's spirit in the crumbling college halls. Something very strange is going on...

Mysterious and haunting, The Raising by Laura Kasischke is an ambitious novel which is at times reminiscent of both the best and worst of David Lynch movies. The Raising may not be for everybody, but as frustrating as Kasischke’s latest book might prove to be, I can promise you, just as with all things Lynch, this book, which invites us into a murky secret underbelly of campus life brimming with strange, shady characters, while sometimes confusing and ultimately far-fetched, is, at least, never dull.

For me, Kasischke is an author to whose books I am always initially drawn to, but which I often find fall short of being great reads. While I love the themes that Kasischke explores in her books, she has a style that I find difficult to connect with. I love smart, thought-provoking books that keep me reading through the night, and keep my mind ticking overtime. I am even a fan of a good cliffhanger, and of endings which leave a few strings untied. But I don’t want all my questions left unanswered, and so while this book kept me turning the pages, it’s safe to say that I definitely felt short-changed with what I found in the end.

Despite my reservations with this one though, The Raising gets off to a great start, delving right into the action with a car accident involving a Prom Queen and all round popular girl, beautiful, blonde Nicole Werner and her adoring boyfriend Craig. We are told of the accident by eye-witness Shelly who describes the scene as ‘bloodless, and beautiful….’ And here’s where the story really gathers pace as the local newspaper reports an entirely different accident scene, one that is brutal and bloody. It soon emerges that this is no mere mistake either, as Shelly tries time and time again to get the paper to print the true facts. At first it seems they are reluctant to believe her version of events, but it soon emerges that they are ignoring Shelly and refusing to print her story. So the mystery of Nicole Werner’s death begins, and the outcome is stranger than you might ever imagine or expect.

Kasischke then skips forward in time and we find ourselves back on campus with Craig, who has returned to college despite the fact that nobody, save his roommate, nice guy, Perry, wants him there. Craig has no memory of the accident, not that anybody would ever let him forget that they hold him responsible for Nicole’s death. In death, Nicole has become revered amongst the ‘Virgin Sisters’ of her sorority, and it seems that the entire campus, is mourning not only Nicole’s death, but is consumed by the topic of death in general. During the course of the year following her death, everybody, it seems has been touched by the loss of Nicole. Themes of death, hauntings, vigils and rituals pervade the book and Kasischke provides an interesting insight into young people, their preoccupation with death, and how death can be seen as a novelty , not something to be feared, but something to be fascinated by. While the topics discussed in the book are intriguing, the style in which the book is written, with multiple viewpoints and timeframes, which often change without indication, lends a choppy, disjointed pace to proceedings preventing readers from getting lost in the story. Kasischke’s books, while they are absorbing and will command your full attention, can also be frustrating and difficult to access at times, and that’s certainly true of this book.

Even though I wasn’t very much enamoured with the characters in this book, or the constant narration changes, the mystery of Nicole’s death and all that followed, kept me turning the pages late into the night as I waited for THE BIG REVEAL. I will say, without risking any spoilers, that the ending of this book was a disappointment for me. Kasischke builds everything up for a wonderful finale where all the pieces are finally starting to fall into place, and then she takes it all away again. While there are flashes of brilliance in The Raising, the storyline for the most part is a little too far-fetched, and the ending of the book was, for me, unsatisfactory. That said, it is a compelling read, and so multi-layered that I could envisage it transferring well to the big screen. In book form though, it leaves a little to be desired, often meandering from its course, and leaving the reader with one too many unanswered questions.


  1. Sorry it was disappointing for you! I hate mysterious book that just end up disappointing me too. I do like the cover though - the makeup for the girls are gorgeous and it's eye catching to me for some reason. It's unfortunate it doesn't live up to its premise.

  2. Too bad that the ending was disappointing. I had huge expectations from this book, but almost every review I have read for The Raising says that the characters are not very likeable.
    Thanks for the review!

  3. Although a goo cliffhanger is part and parcel with many series, I do expect some of the plot sewn up at the end and it sounds like this book did not deliver. The premise is interesting enough and I loved how you described the themes in the book, but I also noticed that the characters seemed less important, which is a very important aspect in a good read for me. Loved the review, but probably will pass on the book.

  4. Nice review! I am very interested in this book. Is it out in the US yet of just UK?

  5. @Misha - I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one if you read it since we seem to like similar books of this type.

    @Savy - This one is already out in the US - I think it was released in March. It has a different cover, though. :)

  6. Sorry this one wasn't as good as you were hoping. I haven't read too many books that take place at college, so I like that aspect. Thanks for the honest review.

  7. I haven't heard of this one before! I like the fact it's set in college, but it's a shame the ending was disappointing. I love the cover though! Very eye-catching. Thanks for the review :).

  8. I love the premise, but I'll be honest and say that I don't love the sound of the follow-through. I'm not sure this one is for me, but I sure loved your review for it! :)

  9. Great honest review. I am not a fan of too many unanswered questions either.

  10. I always enjoy multiple POVs when they're done well, but I need it to be really clear when I've switched voices so that I don't get confused and disoriented. This one doesn't quite sound like it manages to avoid that problem. Really enjoyed your thoughts on this one Leanna!

  11. Oh man it sounded really good until the disappointing ending. But the cover is so pretty! xD


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