Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

Is it a rehearsal for a play, or is it real life? The line is blurred between the realism of a sex scandal at a school which jolts a group of teenage girls into awareness of their potency, and the theatrics of a local drama college’s production of the scandal as a ‘show’.

The cast of characters is broad and fascinating. There’s the saxophone teacher, condoning truth even at its most cutting, “Do you hear me, with your mouth like a thin scarlet thread and your deflated bosom and your stale mustard blouse?”, but who is trapped by her own repetitious and revealing sarcasm. Julia is disconcertingly unconcerned; her affair with her music teacher has both elevated her in the eyes of her peers, and isolated her. Her sister Isolde is more affected, continuing her studies, and watched by everyone, including the constantly perceptive saxophone teacher. Stanley is a virginal youth whose acceptance into the drama college is, he believes, the beginning of his life.

This is a book written with deep insight, and wit. The saxophone teacher is by turns fascinating, cruel and laugh-out-loud funny, and so is The Rehearsal. It’s written with confidence and flair, and is an example of the magic that can be achieved with a first novel.

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~ by ConsanguineousMind on June 8, 2010.

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