Reagan Arthur, 2010 (2010)
Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto
is unlike any book that I have ever read. Author Eleanor Catton skillfully blends two storylines and only little by little do we see how they intersect. With subheadings of months or days as the only indication of mixed-up chronology, this is definitely one big mind trip.
fter Victoria, a seventh former at the private Abbey Grange high school, has an affair with her jazz band teacher, her classmate Julia, bandmate Bridgit, and sister Isolde, confess their confusion and irritation to their private saxophone instructor. When the scandal hits the papers, the first years at the prestigious Drama Institute, which is located near the saxophone instructor's studio, decide to use the story for their end-of-year performance project. Complications arise when institute student Stanley befriends Isolde, not knowing who she is.
hile there are many characters in
(some named but most only known by their position), Stanley seems the only true one. He grows throughout the story, coming to a major realization at the end. Isolde and Julia also learn about themselves, but it feels like Stanley's story. Stanley, luckily, is the kind of character that the reader roots for and wants to succeed. He has his problems and makes mistakes that only youths are bold enough to make, which shows his humanity and adds depth. At times, the rest seem to be only be actors in a play, and this illusion is added to by Catton's use of lighting and staging terms in certain passages, making them almost scenes.
he title itself lends to this distancing that is so common in theatre. However, it does not apply to any of Stanley's practices at the Drama Institute or any of the saxophone students' planning for their upcoming recital, but to teenagers preparing to become adults. This theme takes
to a whole new level and adds to the mind trip. Eleanor Catton is a force to be reckoned with and I'm anxious to see what will follow this debut novel.
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