Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

Eleanor Catton has been short-listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize (and is one of five women out of the six people nominated) for her novel, The Rehearsal (earlier referenced as one of the books that has called to me). This is what I thought of it when I read it a few months ago:

This book has the feel of a mid-century all-girls school story, think The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but you quickly learn that it has a meta twist to it that makes it so much more than your conventional novel.

Two stories unfold together—a student and teacher have a relationship, and the whole school is abuzz. Several other students, including the girl’s sister, take sax lessons from the same woman, a Miss Brodie-like figure. They discuss the drama with her, and she seems to feed off their confessions, all the while hiding her own secrets from the world. Meanwhile, the drama school next door decides to use the account of the student-teacher relationship as material for their end of year play.

The dialogue can seem quite stilted at times, but keep in mind that the feeling the dialogue creates is very intentional. Every word and scene feels deeply intentional, in a way that almost feels creepy, like when the camera lingers on a closed door or fluttering curtain in a horror movie --you just know something is behind it.

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