The first beach read of the summer: “The Finishing School”

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: May 16, 2017

I went to the kind of New England boarding school that makes you feel — wrongly — superior to the high school graduates when you get to college, so it was quite a shock for me to discover an elite even more elite than the preppies: the kids who’d gone to school in Switzerland. It was thus a pleasure to read Joanna Goodman’s “The Finishing School,” a novel that focuses on Kersti Kuusk, a scholarship student in the 1990s at the Lycée Internationale Suisse, and Cressida, her beautiful, rich classmate. Kersti has gone on to become a bestselling novelist. Naturally the school invites her to speak at its100th birthday celebration. And the trouble starts: In 1998, Cressida jumped or was pushed off a balcony at the Lycée. She’s still technically alive, but she’ll never be able to tell her story. What would a writer of historical women’s fiction do? You guessed it. “The Finishing School” drops all the right names, but it’s far from an exercise in snobbery. Its subjects are young love and lust, privilege and striving, and faculty-student relations that redefine that term. There’s a missing ledger and a dark secret, and the story is as tasty as braised lamb shanks and as easy to swallow as a good Riesling — add this to your stack of beach reads. [To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]