What is this about?: Thomas returns to his school for a high school reunion, only to discover that the gym is being knocked down and rebuilt, which is a slight problem because the body of the philosophy teacher he murdered is in the walls. However, that is the last of his problems.
What else is this about?: This is about a boy who never grew up. He is stuck at the age of 18, obsessively in love with a girl he could never have, and surrounded by far more interesting, complex and fascinating characters.
WELCOME TO THE SCHOOL REUNION FROM HELL…
FRENCH RIVIERA, WINTER 1992
On a freezing night, as her high school campus is engulfed by a snowstorm, 19-year-old Vinca Rockwell runs away with Alexis, her philosophy teacher. No one will ever see them again.
FRENCH RIVIERA, SPRING 2017
Formerly inseparable, Thomas, Maxime and Fanny – Vinca’s best friends – have not spoken in twenty-five years.
But when they receive an invitation to their school’s reunion, they know they must go back one final time.
Because there is a body buried in that school. And they’re the ones who put it there.
The Reunion is a mixed bag to say the least. I wanted to read it because of the setting, because I’d just visited Nice and in my research for my holiday read about these cities.
First, Thomas is the type of boy who idealised one girl in high school, fell obsessively in love and when she disappeared, floated through life always and forever defined by the fact he loved, in this case, Vinca, and she never loved him back.
His idealism of this girl is deep seated, fascinating and disturbing. She isn’t actually a character to Thomas, or the book, with thoughts and feelings and needs. She is there to be whatever everyone else needs her to be, which I suppose is what obsession is — and yes, pretty much every character is in some way obsessed with Vinca. Hell, the whole book is about every character’s feelings towards her, even though there are far more interesting things.
Let me put it this way: Vinca is the sun, around which everyone else orbits, never mind if they hated or loved her.
And yes, Thomas killed for her.
To be fair, he made the decision to kill in the heat of the moment and because of what she told him — but she never asked him to kill for her.
Thomas has lived with that secret for years, but when he comes to his reunion, he realises his secret is about to come out. But at the same time, he wants to know what happened to Vinca, why she disappeared and why there were reports of her being sighted in Paris with an older man.
As he investigates these events, he discovers the secrets Maxime and Fanny have kept for decades, and how they relate back to Vinca. Again.
And he also begins to understand the secrets in his own life, the ones that his parents have been keeping for years.
When these revelations come, they reveal a different more compelling story happening underneath this obsession with Vinca. I’m glad I stuck with it, because this book is a slow burn, before revelations come that reset the story entirely.
However, Thomas is such a pathetic figure, convinced the world is revolving around him, but it really isn’t — granted, he still never gets it by the end of the book.
His investigation, and the book is fascinating for the complexities it reveals in the characters around him, and the female characters especially are fascinatingly complex next to Thomas. From Thomas’s mother, to Fanny, to Vinca (what little we do see of her beyond everyone’s obsession with her) to the female characters Thomas meets in the reunion — there’s so much there.
I didn’t much like Thomas, but this book is saved by a complex mystery, and characters that absolutely fascinated me. The slow burn was slow, but it’s so worth it!