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It began with six students from various backgrounds at the fictional Pitt College at Oxford University. And it ended in New York City in the present day. Sort of.
There are two stories being told. One of an American in England–Chad. Chad from the pig farm in upstate New York who managed to attend Oxford for a year.
The other story takes place fourteen years later. It is told by a person who has not recovered from that year at Oxford.
There were six of them–they’d invented a ridiculous, clever, devious, genius game–but it was only a game amongst friends, still.
And they’d been backed by an organization who made sure they played by the rules. The Games Society. There were loads of ‘societies’ at Pitt. Students were encouraged to join them. It’s healthy to get out there to do things. Engage.
So the gang from near and far invented a game and staked more money than some had on it.
And it wasn’t the game so much as the consequences .
You see, the consequences were specifically tailored to most destroy each person. Nothing physical, only psychological damage. You know, for fun!
Then someone died. Not during a consequence. But definitely due to the game.
There came a break in play but the final round must be dealt fourteen years later. To prepare himself, one of the final two is trying to remember what happened all those years ago, but his memory wasn’t all that outstanding to begin with and after basically allowing your cohort to give you PTSD it’s really shot to hell.
He writes and writes and tells his story and then goes about his daily routine. Trying to get his mind into some sort of shape to face the final round of this wretched game he started with his friends all those years ago.
* * *
I loved this book. I’m a big fan of anything set in Oxford and I love nefarious ‘games’ and little secret, incestuous societies. (Hello, The Secret History, which this book has been compared to in every single review and I’m going to do it again. But I loved them both.)
Yates has excellent insight into human psychology and gives the reader a range of believable reactions to increasingly stressful circumstances.
Black Chalk is hard to put down. If you’re still looking for something for a book lover for the holiday–look no further.