The Centre is an exclusive and secretive language school. Twenty learners stay for ten days in residence with no connections to the outside world and no talking to the other learners or staff. When they return home, they can speak a new language like a native.
The mystery is how the process works. Anisa is a Pakistani translator living in London, who has been to the school twice. Her parents called her a “curious cat” as a child and she digs until she discovers the school’s shocking truth.
The book is labeled a mystery, but it reads like literary fiction with a twist ending. However, that is not my biggest complaint about it. Anisa is incredibly annoying—though that may just be my own ignorance talking. Do people really over analyze their life like that? Wow, I hope not. Anisa sees slights by others (because of her ethnicity and gender) and her own failings everywhere. Here are some of Anisa’s thoughts:
“It made me wonder whether I was simply an insatiable pit, never to be fully satisfied.“
“I know it’s narcissistic to make my best friend’s new relationship about me. […] Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was just jealous. Or sad about losing my friend. […] I tried to contain myself, out of fear that this was my anti-maleness or my self sabotaging thinking taking over.“
Even Anisa’s best friend speaking to Anisa states “You’re very quick to take on blame, but the good stuff, you push away.“ To which Anisa replies “Do I?”
While the beginning built up anticipation for discovering how The Centre worked, the slow pacing made the middle a slow slog stuck in someone’s brain from which I really wanted to flee. So definitely not a book for me. However, I believe literary fiction fans might enjoy the inclusion of a slight mystery and an unexpected finale. 3.5 stars.
Thanks to Gillian Flynn Books and NetGalley for a digital review copy of the book.