"Revoyr is gifted in her ability to deal with complex ideas like racism, class conflict, and sexuality without sacrificing the truth of her narrative. Furthermore, like the most adroit novelists, Revoyr specializes in reversal. All of her books are filled with suspense and sudden surprises that take the stories in unexpected directions...As much as Nina Revoyr herself is a student of history, she's also one of our best teachers."
--Los Angeles Review of Books
"Revoyr's latest noir tells a story that's somewhere between Sunset Boulevard and the darker regions of The Great Gatsby...Revoyr is a subtle observer of human foibles and social structures, and the result is one of the most insightful, and the most entertaining books of the year."
--Literary Hub, one of Lit Hub's 50 Favorite Books of 2019
"A Student of History is full of research, detail, lush descriptions, and visual place-setting. [Revoyr's] a fiction writer with an eye for reality set in a dream-like world, often in her home city of Los Angeles."
"Any Nina Revoyr novel is a cause for celebration, and her latest, A Student of History, is assured and marvelous, an absorbing rags among riches tale about a broke USC grad student who finds himself swept off his feet by Los Angeles's insular, powerful .01% class. It's a contemporary novel that feels like an instant classic, with the wry tragedy of The House of Mirth, the sinister glamour of Sunset Boulevard, and a fresh, original point of view."
"With a nod to Great Expectations and The Great Gatsby, Rick Nagano is Nick Carraway and young Pip rolled into one...Lambda Award–winner Revoyr focuses on the impact of race in the construct of class and society, and how there are some doors that will always remain closed."
"Nina Revyor's new novel, A Student of History, continues the tradition of the Los Angeles oil novel, but steers it in a new direction."
--Rain Taxi Review of Books
"With her two Walter Mosley-like gifts--impeccable narrative pacing and masterful command of Los Angeles' intricate, evolving dynamics of race and class--Nina Revoyr's LA novels convincingly capture the lifespan of Los Angeles as a major city, none more gracefully than A Student of History."
--New York Journal of Books
Rick Nagano is a graduate student in the history department at USC, struggling to make rent on his South Los Angeles apartment near the neighborhood where his family once lived. When he lands a job as a research assistant for the elderly Mrs. W--, the heir to an oil fortune, he sees it at first simply as a source of extra cash. But as he grows closer to the iconoclastic, charming, and feisty Mrs. W--, he gets drawn into a world of privilege and wealth far different from his racially mixed, blue-collar beginnings.
Putting aside his half-finished dissertation, Rick sets up office in Mrs. W--'s grand Bel Air mansion and begins to transcribe her journals--which document an old Los Angeles not described in his history books. He also accompanies Mrs. W-- to venues frequented by the descendants of the land and oil barons who built the city. One evening, at an event, he meets Fiona Morgan--the elegant scion of an old steel family--who takes an interest in his studies. Irresistibly drawn to Fiona, he agrees to help her with a project of questionable merit in the hopes he'll win her favor.
A Student of History explores both the beginnings of Los Angeles and the present-day dynamics of race and class. It offers a window into the usually hidden world of high society, and the influence of historic families on current events. Like Great Expectations and The Great Gatsby, it features, in Rick Nagano, a young man of modest means who is navigating a world where he doesn't belong.
The uneven latest from Revoyr (Southland) is the story of Mrs. Marion W , a wealthy heiress whose family played a central role in the development of Los Angeles. The main character, Richard Nagano, is a PhD student at the University of Southern California who has run out of steam on his dissertation. A chance job offer will maintain his funding: Mrs. W hires Richard to transcribe her private journals so that the family history can be passed down through generations. Richard soon realizes he can use his serendipitous position for his own gain especially when he meets the beautiful Fiona, the descendent of a family that made its money in steel, who has a deep interest in the real story behind the W family. As Richard gets involved with Fiona, betrayal ensues and he learns that Mrs. W values her privacy a great deal and that Fiona has ulterior motives. Though the story never fully comes together and the reader may wish for more character development, Revoyr's quick plot keeps the pages turning, making for a solid, if forgettable, novel.