If I had a nickel for every time I read a book titled Hex and was disappointed with it, I’d have two nickels. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice.
Not only that, but this is the second time I was under the impression said book was one way but turned out another. Sometimes this is a good thing, not this time, sadly. Note to self, stop reading books with this cursed title. It doesn’t end well.
Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight follows Nell Barber, an expelled PhD student, after losing everything following the accidental death of a labmate. Despite this, she refused to give up her two passions, the study of poisonous plants and her professor Dr Joan Kallas. As she fills her apartment up with said plants to continue her research, she also fills up notebooks detailing the events in her life, dedicating said books to Joan.
As it turns out, those plants aren’t the only toxic thing in her life.
I know I said I was disappointed in Hex, but that might be a little harsh. I liked the book enough to read it cover to cover after all. Mostly because of Nell. I’ll elaborate a bit more about her in a minute. I was under the impression there would be more focus on the whole poisonous plants part. True, it is a big part but the story itself is more about interpersonal relationships, love triangles and drama. Fine enough but I don’t care for those kinds of stories. I was expecting the story to go down a different route.
I blame the front cover or at least the mini-review on said cover comparing it to The Secret History. Having finished it, I don’t really see the correlation. Well, both stories are about a small group and their bond and they both have charming professors that make an impression on their students. That is it. The tone is different in both, The Secret History has a gripping murder story, Hex doesn’t.
The main reason I finished Hex was because of Nell. I liked her interesting perspective on life and how she writes. The story is told via her notebooks written in a stream of consciousness style, so we get to read her innermost thoughts about the drama going on in her close circle. Namely her idol Joan, Joan’s husband, Nell’s ex, her best friend and her best friend’s boyfriend.
Nell was the only character I cared for. I suspect that might have been intentional. She has it bad for Joan and will not stop praising her until a certain point. She is sharp, perceptive to those around her and unapologetically herself. She never tries to hide or pretend to be someone else, I respect that. However, she is a bit lost due to her expulsion, kinda drifting through life by the time we meet her. I wanted to hug the poor girl but also shake some sense into her at times.
Is Hex a bad book? No, not at all. I am glad I read it. Easily the better of the two books sharing that title. It was just not what I was expecting. I still enjoyed reading Nell’s rambling plus the plot itself is engaging enough.
If you like books about obsession, betrayal and the ties that bind then you will like Hex. Most likely more than I did.