Bradstreet Gate is a murder-mystery beginning in the hallowed and much coveted halls of Harvard University. The novel follows three unlikely friends as they navigate their way through four years of university life, culminating in the gruesome murder of a student shortly before graduation.
Georgia Calvin is the girl that everyone wants to be (Think Elle Woods without the chihuahua.) She’s gorgeous, brilliant, and just mysterious enough to keep people interested and dying to know more about her. Not the least of her admirers is Charlie Flournoy. Charlie is every-man (so much so that I forgot his name within an hour after finishing the novel.) Charlie begins to enmesh himself in the who’s-who society of Harvard, rising above the precedent set by his working-class family, when he meets Georgia. From that moment, his carefully crafted social life is turned on its axis and begins to revolve solely around her. Alice Kovac has always felt like an outsider. At six feet tall with a physique that can only be described as “boyish,” Serbian-American Alice envies Georgia the flawless looks and “normal” personality she fears she will never have. Even so, she can’t help but love Georgia as much as everyone else does, and comes to depend on her as a lifeline as she struggles through life at Harvard and her battle with mental illness.
Days before graduation, the lives of and connections between the three friends are forever altered by the murder of their fellow soon-to-be graduate. Unanswered questions and raised suspicions follow the trio not only in the immediate aftermath of the murder, but through their very much separate lives for the ten years following their exit from the lush lawns and relative sanctuary of Harvard University.
Before I dove into this novel, I made the rookie mistake of taking a peek at the other reviews that had been written about it thus far. I was disheartened to find that by and large, almost everybody who had received an advanced copy of the book hated it; some more passionately than others. So, let me start by saying that while I did not absolutely fall over myself with love for this book, I didn’t absolutely hate it either.
I really enjoyed the description of Harvard life that was portrayed in this novel. Being a fairly recent college graduate, although further removed than I’d like to admit, I was immediately taken by the description of life at Harvard. Having
graduated from a not-as prestigious, but still very respectable University, I always wondered what life was like in a less “normal” setting. I was pleased to find, at least from the point of view of this author, that life at Harvard is similar to my experience; the struggle to fit in, the constant fear that you won’t, even the seemingly obscure relationships some students appeared to have with their professors. Sure, there was a higher level of “snoot” than can be found on your average campus, but it was more of an undercurrent than the in-your-face superiority I was expecting to read about.
In addition to a campus study, this novel made for an absolutely fabulous character study. I found myself completely enthralled by the lives and loves of the three characters that had befriended one another at Harvard. The character descriptions in this novel were so real, they oftentimes bordered on heartbreaking. From Charlie’s climb to surpass his family, to Alice’s constant struggle with mental illness, to Georgia’s constant striving for normalcy and acceptance, I felt for these characters and related to all of them in very tangible ways.
The downfall of this novel, however, was what was meant to be the central theme- the murder. Yes, a girl was murdered in the beginning of novel, and that does provide for a certain amount of intrigue, especially when one takes into consideration who the supposed perpetrator is. However, this, the most important aspect of the novel, fell completely flat straight out of the gate (no pun intended… get it? Bradstreet GATE?) The novel drags you through the mud, constantly hinting at some sort of solution-inducing epiphany, and then consistently fails to deliver. Upon finishing this novel, I stared, mouth agape, for what felt like an inordinately long time, not believing that the book just….ended. The great thing about a murder mystery is the solving of it. It’s the satisfaction the reader gets upon finally figuring out whodunnit. This book does not give you that “a-ha!” closure. If the murder aspect were taken out, and the novel served purely as a character study, I feel that I would have really loved it. As it stands, I can only provide a resounding “meh.”