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Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Hay

Alone in the Classroom (2011)

by Elizabeth Hay

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2092183,730 (3.48)51

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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
This book is actually lovely, if taken slowly, in small doses, not as a novel, but simply as a rambling fictional memoir about the good old days, with tales of a few sexually irresistable men and a few women who are easily swayed by such men. I really liked that the central female characters in this book are able to be sexual without it being a huge moral issue; in this sense this is a rather modern novel, and it is at least as well written as many classics that are still regularly read and reprinted. There is also some lovely writing in this story, quotable and thought provoking.

But, as a coherent novel this one is unsatisfyingly unfocused and unresolved. There really isn't a central plot, just characters and events strung together haphazardly. Things do certainly happen, but we never find out whether Parsey raped Susan, or who raped and killed Ethel. We never learn who caused the fire the destroyed the Gravess' house, either. There are so many characters to keep track of, too, from several generations, in a very jumbled timeline, that it is exhausting and offputting trying to keep track of what is going on from one chapter to the next. I'm someone who can easily keep track of all the characters in a huge saga like the Wheel of Time series, and I was having a terrible time remembering the family tree for the primary character groups and keeping track of who knows who and who sleeps with whom.

If what you want is something nice to read a few pages at a time before bed, not for plots and action, but simply to ease the way into sleep, this book may be an excellent choice, and as a piece of literature to read in academic settings this might be an interesting choice, but it is not one of my favorite novels for sure. ( )
  JBarringer | Dec 30, 2017 |
This novel is filled with so many beautiful lines that I found myself marking many pages so that I could go back and savor the prose. I really wanted to love this book but the multiple characters and plotlines diluted the story's overall impact. ( )
  dcmr | Jul 4, 2017 |
I have the horrible habit of reading very late ... beginning very late and going later. I might start my night's reading at midnight or 2. Even 3 or 4. So my continuity is not that great sometimes, my focus sloppy. I may have the energy for one or two pages, or a paragraph, or 10 pages, that late at night. This may unfairly affect my rating of this book, which I did enjoy but felt that the ending was kind of wilfully meaningful, if you know what I mean. Loose ends tied poetically together. "The music is something we gravitate towards, no matter how distant it is and how hard of hearing we are." I guess it's not so bad--offers a kind of novel closure.

I loved the prairie setting. I loved the Ottawa setting. Both of these areas were part of my life, and the Michael character adapted some of the features in my mind of one of my parents' old friends. ( )
  Muzzorola | Jul 30, 2015 |
An enjoyable, rambling novel by a Canadian woman about teaching children, falling in love, and figuring out the meaning of the past.

Elizabeth Hay is a talented and accomplished Canadian writer. She was born on Lake Ontario in 1951 and has lived in various parts of her country. Her novels and other writings have been awarded various prizes. I found her novel to be full of literary gems; sharp descriptions and commentary on how people behave. Her narrative is complex and sometimes confusing. Its structure is not consistently linear, and people keep meeting those they had known in previous times. No plot summary can do it justice.

Alone in the Classroom is primarily a family story, narrated by Anne, a contemporary woman with a husband and two children. She devotes the first part of the book to telling stories about her favorite aunt, Connie, a lively, attractive, and independent woman. Like Anne’s parents, Connie grew up in a small town in Ontario. Barely out of school herself, she taught in a tiny town on the prairies of Saskatchewan. She loved teaching and her students, but feared and distrusted the man who was principal of the school. A tragedy occurred, and she left teaching and ended up back in Ontario as a journalist. When a young girl was murdered in her family’s home town, she covered the story. In the process she encountered people from her past who complicated her life. Ann continues relating Connie’s story and that of her larger extended family. Gradually the narrative shifts. Anne herself becomes the central character as she interacts with Connie and people from her past.
READ MORE: http://wp.me/p24OK2-1aq
  mdbrady | Sep 13, 2014 |
Intriguing story. Some fabulous quotes near the end ( )
  mechristie54 | Jun 18, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Hay's fiction has always demonstrated a keen appreciation of people, places and history. This novel is further immutable evidence of that.
Alone in the Classroom is meant to be read slowly, or even better, read twice.
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Nothing would give up life:
Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.
-- -- -- -- Theodore Roethke
For my mother and father
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From Amazon ca :Product Description
In 1930, a school principal in Saskatchewan is suspected of abusing a student. Seven years later, on the other side of the country, a girl picking wild cherries meets a violent end. These are only two of the mysteries in the life of the narrator's charismatic aunt, Connie Flood. As the narrator Anne pieces together her aunt's lifelong attachment to her former student Michael Graves, and her obsession with Parley Burns, the inscrutable principal implicated in the assault of Michael's younger sister. Her own story becomes connected with that of the past, and the triangle of principal, teacher, student opens out into other emotional triangles -- aunt, niece, lover; mother, daughter, granddaughter -- until a sudden, capsizing love changes Anne's life. Alone in the Classroom is Hay's most tense, intricate, and seductive novel yet.

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"This spellbinding tale -- set in Saskatchewan and the Ottawa Valley -- crosses generations and cuts to the bone. It probes the roots of obsessive love and hate, how the hurts and desires of childhood persist and are passed on as if in the blood. It lays bare the urgency of discovering what we were never told about the past. And it celebrates the process of becoming who we are in a world full of startling connections that lie just out of sight"--P. [2] of cover.… (more)

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