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Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Hay

Alone in the Classroom (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Elizabeth Hay

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1932061,059 (3.54)45
Title:Alone in the Classroom
Authors:Elizabeth Hay
Info:MacLehose Press (2012), Hardcover

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Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Hay (2011)


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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.
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  mdbrady | Sep 13, 2014 |
Intriguing story. Some fabulous quotes near the end ( )
  mechristie54 | Jun 18, 2014 |
as always when listening i get characters mixed up. reader mispronounced kazabazua. good story ( )
  mahallett | Feb 1, 2014 |
elizabeth hay is magical with her words and stories. it's amazing to me, her quiet but nuanced prose (if that makes sense?). i find that hay has a great ability to capture intimate details of human nature and convey them in her writing. but her style doesn't punch you in the face. it just sort of envelopes you gently yet she will still get deep into your bones. i sound like such a prig. sorry! :) i had the chance to hear hay read from this book a while ago and so it was nice having her voice in my mind while i was reading; she has a wonderful voice which isn't all that surprising given her years working in radio for the CBC. i never listen to audio books - but i wonder if she narrates her own works?

anyway...this story is great. it's unsettling and surprising. i was most fixated on the one thread woven through the story: the idea that the past is constantly being rediscovered and effects the lives of our families for years to come.

i was a bit surprised by the tiny, tiny bit of magical realism being dabbled with here - the idea of people being born as others from past lives - bringing memories, and birthmarks, into the new life they occupy. this was very interesting.

the only reason i didn't give this 5-stars is because of the structure. it's almost like two connected novellas and the move from one to the next was sudden. which is, for me, a marked contrast to the smooth nature of hay's style. ( )
  Booktrovert | Jul 5, 2013 |
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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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In a small prairie school in 1929, Connie Flood helps a backward student, Michael Graves, learn how to read. Observing them and darkening their lives is the principal, Parley Burns, whose strange behaviour culminates in an attack so disturbing its repercussions continue to the present day.… (more)

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