Christine Schutt’s refreshingly strange novel All Souls is exciting evidence that she continues to push the boundaries of fiction … Schutt’s deft use of syntactical surprise and her delicious attention to the rhythm and sound of a sentence may strike fear in the plot-hungry hearts of some readers. But All Souls is less enigmatic than Florida, with plenty of straight-up storytelling. The action takes place at an elite Manhattan girls’ school called Siddons (the kind of place where, when a teacher asks, ‘Who do you think you are?’ the reply is ‘A Du Pont’) … It’s the foreign land of teenage girldom — where bodies relentlessly blossom and friendships resemble tortuous love affairs — that Schutt gets especially, achingly, right.
All Souls manages to make meaningful the superficiality of the lives of rich high school females. We pity the awkward ones. We pity the ones whose fathers left. But we are also intrigued by the ones who seem fine … With All Souls she's written less of a Great Gatsby exploration of class and money and more of an exploration of the defining year of a person's life.
...a novel comprised of small moments experienced by students, parents and teachers at the elite (fictitious) Siddons School. Astra Dell, an ethereal redhead gravely ill from a rare cancer, spends most of her senior year in the hospital, where she receives other members of the Siddons community … Although appropriate to a travelogue of an insular world, the diffuse focus weakens the narrative drive. Still, the spare prose, every word freighted with meaning, rewards repeated readings.