The Lightness by Emily Temple review – fetishising girlhood

A quest to master the dark art of levitation: this sly echo of The Secret History is entertaining but underpowered

It is elitist, precocious, histrionic and oh-so-earnest, but The Secret History – Donna Tartt’s 1992 debut about murderous classics students – is literary alchemy, a cult novel that is beloved for all the reasons why it shouldn’t work. Decades of imitators have only succeeded in making its singular magic more potent. 

Emily Temple’s first novel, The Lightness, is one of the more preposterous Secret History facsimiles: in place of hedonistic scholars, Temple gives us nihilistic Buddhists on a quest to master the dark and furtive art of levitation. It is a premise that requires a mighty belief in suspension in order to suspend disbelief. 

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