From Publishers Weekly
Awarded the Prix Premier Roman in France, Dufossé's compelling debut portrays the uneasy divide between adult and adolescent with superb skill. In 1995, 32-year-old Pierre Hoffman, who teaches French in the quiet town of Clerval far from sophisticated Paris, takes on the history/geography class for his colleague, 25-year-old Éric Capadis, after Capadis jumps to his death while "the children of 9F" watch enigmatically. Was it suicide or murder? After Capadis's funeral, one of his students warns Hoffman not to take on the class again after the holidays: "They'll destroy you." Hoffman spies on the students' secret meetings and learns mysterious deaths have shadowed the entire class since they started school. In the end, Hoffman accompanies these strange young teens on a class trip with haunting consequences. Dufossé, himself a former teacher, sustains a terrifying feeling of dread throughout this grim thriller.
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In this stylish update of William Golding's Lord of the Flies
, debut novelist Dufosse substitutes French middle-school classroom 9F for the isolated island setting of Golding's classic work. Substitute teacher Pierre Hoffman must take over the classroom of a teacher who has committed suicide. The students are so eerily well behaved that Hoffman's initial impression is that "they were neither a class, nor a group, but a gang." Then a student who tries to warn Hoffman to turn down the assignment shows up in class bearing facial scars from a knife assault, and Hoffman begins receiving disturbing phone calls. Initial inquiries reveal that the students have been in the same class together since kindergarten, and other teachers at the school are afraid of them. As Dufosse expertly builds up a menacing atmosphere, he also reveals that the teachers' behavior is nearly as questionable as their students'. More an existential horror story than a straight thriller, with lots of strange conversations and black humor thrown in for effect, this unusual novel also recalls the work of Michel Houellebecq. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved