Korelitz, Jean Hanff. Admission. Grand Central Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-0446540704 464 pp. $27
I really enjoyed this novel about a Yale admissions officer newly promoted to the New England region where she grew up. Portia Nathan, age 38 and coasting along in her job and relationship, bumps into her past in several ways as she navigates the highways and byways of Vermont and New Hampshire.
Each chapter is cleverly prefaced with an excerpt from a potential student’s college essay. As Portia visits a variety of prep schools, she has a chance not just to talk about Yale, but to expound on higher education and coming of age. It is the students at an experimental alternative sort of farming school in VT that she finds the most engaging, truer intellectuals and scholars who learn for learning’s sake, and not because they are on the college “track.”
This is a thoughtful and provocative book. Portia is a complex character, and though the pacing is a bit ponderous, the writing is smooth. I saw where this was going pretty early on and really wanted Korelitz to get to the gory details, but she took her time. She is occasionally redundant in driving her points home.