Robin Kirman’s Bradstreet Gate elicits strong emotions, good and bad. I read it in two days. I saw its premise online and knew I needed an advanced copy STAT. Once I found one and dove in, I wasn’t able to put it down, causing sleep deprivation and a neglect of life’s other demands for a day.
Bradstreet Gate focuses on the bright, beautiful, blonde Georgia Calvin, the crush of all young Harvard men from the day she steps foot on campus. Aloof from years spent transferring schools, trailing after a successful photographer father, the story follows Georgia and those put under her spell through their years at Harvard and beyond. The story is juicy and unpredictable from the start, as Georgia becomes involved with headstrong and moody professor Rufus Storrow. We meet Georgia’s small circle of friends as they each take turns narrating, illuminating their own motives, insecurities, and views of each other. There is young Republican, bow-tie wearing Charlie, and cold, determined journalist Alice.
Harvard’s small enclave is rocked when a student, Julie Patel, is murdered on campus. Friendships begin to fall apart as Professor Storrow, Georgia’s secret lover, is the prime suspect in the murder. But this isn’t primarily a mystery novel. It is a book of betrayals and hidden motives, our private definitions of success and those we measure ourselves against.
The novel is less literary than some of the college-friends-gone-wrong fare we’ve known and loved: it is compared to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History in its blurb, which I’m glad I didn’t see until after I completed it. If I had gone into this book with Secret History-esque expectations, I would have been disappointed. Based on plot alone, I went in expecting a soap-opera-style drama set on a college campus, and I feel those expectations were certainly met.
Professor Storrow reminded me of an unhinged Christian Grey, popping up at odd times, saying inappropriate things, making demands. The murder, while a background mystery, just hung like a foreboding cloud over this small group of friends and their already strained relationships. Those relationships, these characters, are the focus of the book. If you don’t fall in love with Georgia Calvin, you’ll definitely want to be her. The fiercely disciplined, slightly unhinged Alice is the perfect combination of wicked and vulnerable.
I read this on my Kindle and when I got to the last page, I kept madly poking the screen to get to something more. If you are the type of person who needs their endings nicely tied up, you might want to skip this one or prepare to be infuriated at the end. But if you can tolerate ending with questions unanswered, Bradstreet Gate’s characters are compelling and the story of their high points and struggles will keep you riveted.