Five Books That Will Make You Glad You Never Went to Boarding School

Add a gifted but lonely outsider to a circle of privileged, eccentric students and you have the formula for a wicked good read. These five novelists shine a fictional light on decadent deeds taking place in the shadows of expensive, elite academic institutions. Read just one –  you’ll never be happier not to have been born with a trust fund.

A young American student and a poor British student at Oxford convince four of their friends to join in an escalating game of pranks and dares for a coveted cash prize. A tragic mishap delays the game, but in the end, a winner must be found in Christopher Yates’ thriller Black Chalk.

Andrei, a talented outsider who studies at an elite Moscow school, becomes involved with a secret club devoted to the poet Pushkin. After two students from the club are killed, the secret police investigation extends all the way into Stalin’s inner circle in One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

When a young Trinity College graduate student who looks just like Detective Cassie Maddox is stabbed, Maddox agrees to pose as the student as part of an undercover investigation. Maddox soon feels herself drawn to the main suspects in the case, the charismatic, reclusive students who live at Whitethorn House in The Likeness by Tana French.


An insecure scholarship student, Richard Papen, becomes fascinated with an aloof group of classics students at a prestigious New England college. His desire to join their exclusive circle entangles him in the more sinister aspects of their studies in Donna Tartt’s debut novel, The Secret History.

Troubled American teenager Andrew Taylor is suspected of causing the death of a fellow student his first semester at an exclusive British boarding school. Uncanny visions and ghostly confrontations link Taylor to a centuries-old scandal involving a lonely charity student and the infamous poet Lord Byron in Justin Evan’s gothic fiction The White Devil.

-Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

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