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The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
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The Rehearsal (2008)

by Eleanor Catton

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Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Eleanor Catton's debut novel is a brilliant exploration of the arts, sexuality, and, most significantly, the line that separates truth from fiction. Written as her Master's thesis, The Rehearsal shows the natural talent of Catton, who writes as intelligently and maturely here as she did in her prize-winning follow-up, The Luminaries. While Catton's work is far from the most readable of young authors today, it's undoubtedly some of the most intelligent and finely woven fiction I have ever seen. Each word is chosen with such foresight and precision that it's a wonder to me how she produces novels as fast as she does (were I capable of producing a work such as The Luminaries, I imagine it would take a lifetime.)

Set in an arts school following a scandal—a teacher's affair with an underage student—The Rehearsal may sound like your average morality play or Lifetime movie. It's far from it. At times, with its ambiguously drawn scenes and dramatic play of various relationships, I was reminded of a tamer David Lynch. And at times, especially as I was pulled into the story of the drama school, I was reminded of the darkness and mindfuckery of 2010's Black Swan. Make no mistake, however, Catton's creation is all her own.

As The Rehearsal opens, it may be hard to follow as the dialogue is horribly pretentious, but once the reader realizes that some of the story (and in ways, all of it?) is acting, one may assume that this staged speech was the author's intent. Thus a big foray into false memory, lies, and truth unveils itself. It's all so expertly crafted with little clues here and there, sparks of witty dialogue that highlight the play within a play (and “all the world's a stage”). It's never clear—at least it wasn't to me—when you're reading the “truth” and when you're reading the “reenactment” of the “truth.” One can make assumptions such as that the truth opens the novel and everything that follows is a reinterpretation; or that all is fabrication that leads to the truth in the end; or that those scenes with the most pretentious dialogue are clearly staged and everything else is reality. But in the end, they're all assumptions. Only the author possibly knows the truth. For me, that's okay. From my many years of reviewing books, however, I've noticed that there are many readers who H A T E such ambiguity. I recall now another similar novel I loved that also blurred the lines without ever directly revealing the real truth: Heidi Julavits's The Uses of Enchantment. And guess how many one and two star ratings that novel has.

The Rehearsal is so multi-layered that it is on one hand confusing, on the other, brilliant. It's not the sort of novel that a reader should expect answers from; it's a novel that intends to confuse you and blow your mind. Despite its seemingly “light” plot synopsis, The Rehearsal is the foundation on which Catton is building her genius. ( )
  chrisblocker | Jul 13, 2017 |
(7.5)Not only is this book difficult to review but it is also difficult to read.
The premise of the story is a music teacher at a local high school has had an affair with a pupil, Victoria, creating a local scandal. Several of the music students have lessons from a saxophone teacher. In a near by building is a drama school where the first year students decide to base their end of year production on the scandal.
The sax teacher quizzes her pupils about their knowledge of the affair and indeed about their own personal relationships, almost a form of voyeurism. Never mind how she addresses the mothers of her pupils. I found her her an unpleasant manipulating character. One of her pupils is Isolde the sister of Victoria and the sax teacher (we never know her name) plays on her vulnerability. Isolde begins a relationship with Stanley one of the first year drama students. He is unaware of her relationship to Victoria.
What was especially difficult about this story line was the changing timeline and the same scene sometimes played from a different perspective. Many times I was unsure of what was true and what was imagined. I found the dialogue far too clever to be that of teenagers in my experience.
This being said, I recognise that this is an intelligent piece of writing. Indeed one can see a similar complex structure to that of her ManBooker winning novel [The Luminaries]. ( )
  HelenBaker | Jul 3, 2017 |
Even though I didn't enjoy reading this book, I am in awe of Eleanor Catton's talent. ( )
  vivaval | Sep 3, 2014 |
I had high hopes for Eleanor Catton's debut novel, but unfortunately after a strong start it began to bog down, and I found myself skimming the last third just hoping something interesting would happen. The book opens in the aftermath of a sex scandal between a high-school girl and her jazz teacher. The scandal is retold through events that occur in the classroom, as well as in private music lessons with a different music teacher. At the same time, a young man named Stanley begins studying at a prestigious acting school, and the students decide to stage a dramatization of the sex scandal. These story lines intersect when Stanley meets the sister of the girl involved in the scandal.

Catton is a strong writer, serving up strong, thought-provoking passages about sexual abuse and sexual awakening. Like her prize-winning The Luminaries, this novel has a unique structure, but in this case it felt like the author was trying too hard to impress. The thread involving the private music teacher was most perplexing to me -- what was she trying to do there? It just didn't work, and the two-dimensional characters didn't help, either.

Still, it was interesting to read the first work by a now well-known author. ( )
  lauralkeet | May 29, 2014 |
So many reviews I read of The Rehearsal called it brilliant, and postmodern. I won't hold the PoMo against Eleanor Catton, but this just read like a very smart, young writer doing her best to impress everyone.

Catton's prose is sharp and kept me involved all the way through. But about a third of the way in, the realization struck that I was reading a play, not a book. And a somewhat plotless play, at that.

Most characters were flat, what there was of a plot was disconnected and non-linear, and the ending was ... there was no end. It was as if a voice somewhere had called out, "Aaaand, scene," so that's where the book ended.

The book I would have liked to read would truly have been about the effects the scandal of a teacher having an affair with a student, and then the local Drama University's first-year students doing a play about it, while one of the actors discovers he's dating the sister of the student, had on the community. That would have been interesting.

This one, not so much. ( )
  AuntieClio | May 21, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Eleanor Catton's masterstroke in this remarkable first novel is to immerse herself in the psychological hall of mirrors that is the teenage mind, but to apply an anthropological precision to what she finds there.
 
Eleanor Catton’s confident debut, an ambitious riff around 'what is real’, shows we are all performing, all our lives, to some degree.
 
The Rehearsal is a significant debut novel from an exciting young writer. Eleanor Catton is a new talent who has arrived fully formed, with an accomplished, confident and mature voice. This is a startling novel, striking and strange and brave....
 
Catton's writing is extraordinary in both its psychological acuity and its metaphorical grace. She switches fluidly from the morass of anxieties, cruelties, and joys of teenage girlhood to the depths of art and performance (and articulates the layered connections between those two subjects).
 
This astonishing debut novel from young New Zealander Eleanor Catton is a cause for surprise and celebration: smart, playful and self-possessed, it has the glitter and mystery of the true literary original.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eleanor Cattonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Abrams, ErikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bakke, Kyrre HaugenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Essen, Rob vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nilsson, JohanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Santi, FlavioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schaden, BarbaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
A high-school sex scandal jolts a group of teenage girls into a new awareness of their own potency and power. The sudden and total publicity seems to turn every act into a performance, and every platform into a stage. But when the local drama school decides to turn the scandal into a show, the real world and the world of the theatre are forced to meet, and soon the bounds between private and public begin to fade…
Eleanor Catton is 22 and was born in Canada and raised in Canterbury. She won the Adam Prize in Creative Writing for this, her first novel.
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After a teacher has an affair with an underage student, a group of teenage girls gain a new awareness of their own power to attract and manipulate, and when a local drama group turns the story of the affair into their year-end show, reality and drama merge.… (more)

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