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The Night Climbers: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 18, 2007

3.3 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British author Stourton's ambitious debut paints a complex, if often predictable, portrait of collegiate hedonism and friends bound by a terrible secret. As an awkward first-year at Cambridge's Tudor College, James fears he'll never join the ranks of his privileged classmates. But when a chance encounter introduces him to a close-knit group of friends devoted to scaling the college's buildings in the dead of night, James finds himself drawn into a world of excess and adventure. Francis, the group's charismatic leader, is adored by the beautiful but aloof Jessica, on whom James harbors a secret crush. The group is rounded out by Lisa, with her eye for shady business deals, and Michael, the blustery jock. After Francis's father, Lord Soulford, cuts off his son's monthly allowance, the friends hatch a plan to maintain their lavish lifestyle that will have disastrous consequences for years to come. With undeniable echoes of Donna Tartt's The Secret History, the novel juggles too many story lines to sustain the suspense needed for such a complicated tale. Still, Stourton is a name to watch. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Loved "The Line of Beauty," mooned over "Brideshead," lapped up "The Secret History"? Then this one's for you.... Stourton really can write." -- "Independent on Sunday" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Spotlight; 1 edition (September 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416948694
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416948698
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,959,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ivo Stourton's night climbers are young, Cambridge University students. "Climbing" has all the right associations in this novel: the characters actually ascend Campus buildings to dizzying heights; they are climing to isolate themselves by surmounting the rest of us. This is social climbing, cult-driven climbing and ultimately climbing to grasp a sort of awareness about choice and the need to chose well. There are significant pages devoted to art in general, and whether the price really does define the product, and these are well-worth pondering.

At a more general leve, the idea of night climbing calls to mind the Platonic dialogue involving epistemology; specifically, the problem of knowing how and what you know as you climb throught a mist of fog that precludes visual clarity and limits the certainty about what is or can be known. The night can bring the city into sharp clarity for the climbers, and it can just as easily create instances where they are duped. The night climbers are, throughout this simply remarkably well-written work, wrestling with what they think they understand.... Read this book and let the games begin.....!
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Format: Hardcover
This book held my interest and was entertaining (maybe partly because I attented Cambridge University for a semester and therefore recognized some of the references), but often felt melodramatic and predictable. The story focused on the lives and relationships of four friends and a secret they shared. However, considering that this book read like character study, the development of personalities and relationships could have been more complex. I would read more by this author as he definitely is an elegant writer.
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Format: Paperback
This is written in the first person, by the young first year student/early 30s lawyer. The college years are a flashback, and we find him today practicing commercial law, living alone, living for his career. The notion is, the 12-13 years since his first year at Oxford are a direct result of that first year.

The editor's review characterized one of the main characters, Michael, as a jock. That's just outright wrong. He did play sports, but the most important thing about him is that he is new rich, and that his self-esteem is completely about being of a better class than those around him. His sports exploits hardly enter the story. He sounds detestable, but Stourton does a good job, and I found myself accepting him for what he is, and surprised that he could be such a decent person, when the chips are down.

The center of the story is Francis, who is rich, handsome, black, and completely charismatic, in his effect on the other characters. The tone of the novel turns with his fortunes. Other than the story, the way Stourton writes the personal interactions among the main characters was a strong point, for me. I wouldn't characterize this as great literature, largely because I doubt I'd recognize great literature without someone to instruct me, but much of what he has to say about people rang true. The 5 main characters come across very distinctly, very 3-dimensional.

Plot spoiler coming - no details, but... Read at your own risk.

Well,that pretty much tells you there's a twist. Francis' fortunes turn sharply down, and it looked to me like this novel was going to be a miserable tragedy, with a hopeful beginning and a complete downer of an ending. Mostly, I'm very not into tragedies, and was prepared to be sorry I'd spent my time with this novel.
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Format: Hardcover
Eighteen years old Tudor College of Cambridge University freshman James Walker is a bit awed at being at the prestigious school, but that will not preclude his desire to party with pretty coeds. Still he fears he will be left on the outside unless he befriends the in-crowd whoever they are.

James meets Michael Findlay and he leads the newcomer to a bunch of thrill-seekers who welcome him to join their group, the Tudor Night Climbers. Although he has some doubts about climbing buildings and other edifices at night he joins them. He quickly is attracted to Jessica Katz, but she seems to desire the dynamic leader Francis. When Francis' father cuts off his funding (and consequently the group), they follow up on an idea by one of them, Lisa, to continue to finance their climbing way of life Emboldened by Francis; they remain naive that fourteen years later they will still be paying the price.

THE NIGHT CLIMBERS is a fascinating complex (perhaps too complicated with its myriad of subplots) group character study. The building climbing apparently is based on a 1960s fad (although this reviewer does not know of any Queens College climbers). Each of the key characters are fully developed and ultimately tied together by the scheme more than by the climbing or the attraction. Ivo Stourton provides an appealing glimpse at the tentative bonds of friendship.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
The Night Climbers, set in Cambridge, has a group of aspiring young jet-setters dabble in an art scam that soon proves more than they can handle. James, the narrator, is desperate to be adopted into a glamour-circle of older students of which Francis, the half-African, illegitimate son of an arch-Conservative lord, and the college beauty Jessica form the core. At first, their life together is a whirlwind of country trips, clubbing, drug-taking, and general daring of which the art heist, and the night-climbing, are but a part. But Francis's brilliant but dissolute lifestyle soon threatens to rob them of their ill-gotten gains, with life-threatening consequences.

The Night Climbers is well-paced and well-written, polished but without wasteful pauses. Though it also takes the reader through London and Monaco, as a Cambridge-based novel it makes a good job of describing the city and university. The night-climbing side plot, indeed, is supposedly not an invention, but based on a real if somewhat obscure tradition. I even went to check whether the leap from the Senate House's roof to Caius college was possible, and the scene in the book is realistic in the main, and the distance between the two buildings correctly given. If Stourton's debut novel is about anything beyond entertaining its reader, furthermore, it is surely about transgression. A perceptive work, it does a good job of making one reflect on the meaning and cost of transgressing social and moral norms, in more than one scene or way.

Finally, this has been compared to Donna Tartt's The Secret History. Indeed, both are college-set and both have a narrator scrambling to belong to a tightly-knit and alluring but amoral club of older students.
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