Search This Blog

Monday, 31 August 2009

Books – The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
Star rating - 6/10

This assured debut novel sizzles along, and pulls you right in. It tells the juxtaposed tales of a schoolgirl’s illicit affair with her teacher; and the subsequent enactment of this tale in the local Drama School’s end of term first year production.

It is all about acting – most of the characters seem to be playing a part – either to the reader, or to other protagonists in the plot. Many of the adults in the story are either co-incidental, like the mothers of the girls leaning to play the saxophone with the very dark unnamed saxophone teacher with her rooms above the Drama School building. Or else they are very dark characters, like the father of Stanley, who is trying to get into the drama course, and subsequently stars in the ill fated production. Stanley’s father seems to specialise in very tasteless jokes about paedophilia and related topics.

It is a coming of age tale, with the affair involving the teacher awakening all sorts of sexual feelings in the girl’s friends, and also in her little sister, Isolde. We are also introduced here to the strong character of Julia, whose schoolmates have already cast as a lesbian, and who is never afraid to challenge and put her well rehearsed point of view. She loves the shock value of her opinions, and her stance seems to be in a certain way that of this whole book.

It constantly challenges the reader to question what is going on, who is really doing what, and why. It is a little hard to follow in places, with large amounts of action taking place at different times with little clue as to where each piece of the jigsaw fits in with the whole. The Rehearsal is written in an unusual and distinctive style, but many of the characters seem to speak in a constant stream of soliloquies, which is a little hard to believe.

However, the saxophone teacher gives us a clue about what the rehearsal in the title actually alludes to when she says to one of her pupils’ mothers’: ‘remember that these years of your daughter’s life are only the rehearsal for what comes after. Remember that it’s in her best interests for everything to go wrong.’ And it does…

A very striking and different novel, which was also a real page turner. An accomplished debut with the promise of much more to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment