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Book clubs and The Rehearsal/ Eleanor Catton

I do not like my reading to be prescribed by others and for this reason tend to avoid book clubs. However an erudite and cultivated friend of mine invited me to such a group and I accepted.

The book to be discussed was The Rehearsal by Eleanor Carton     her first novel written when she was 22. My friend tends to enjoy books written by women about feelings and interaction of relationship whilst I prefer those with stories, a strong sense of location and context like those written by Simon Mawer, Philip Kerr and Anthony Quinn.

I duly read 80% of The Rehearsal and did not get on with it at all.

My main problem was working out what was happening. It was unclear where the novel was taking place other than in a school of acting and sessions of musical tuition provided by a saxophone teacher.

To confuse matters further characters were referred to by their job, e.g. Head of Movement or the Saxophone Teacher.

Add to this a thoroughly unpleasant scene when a young boy in drama lesson is very nearly forced to drown plus the unfunny sick humour of a child psychiatrist and the novel was fast resembling a small pile of excrement by my bed. I read the Simon Mawer Prague Spring with great enjoyment and returned out of duty to The Rehearsal.

Much to my surprise I enjoyed the final section. I thought I “got it”.

The novel was about the predatory and voyeuristic  nature of the tutor and student relationship.

It was well-written and rather intriguing. The ending was unclear to me – and to the group – and one other commented he found it hard to know what was happening.

Indeed there was some discussion whether one character existed or was the figment of the saxophone teacher’s imagination.

It is a novel I would be cautious in recommending but I reassessed the value of book clubs as if I was recommended this otherwise I doubt if I would have bothered finishing it.

About Melanie Gay

A former literary agent with three published novels of her own, Melanie retains her life-long love of the written word and recently mastered the Kindle. She is currently writing a historical novel set in 17th Century Britain and Holland. More Posts