Thursday, May 20, 2010

Newly Released Books reviewed in the New York Times, Thursday May 20, 2010

By Eleanor Catton
312 pages. Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown & Company. $23.99.

Imagine Sue Sylvester’s lines from “Glee” delivered by Judi Dench and you’ll begin to capture the tone taken by the teachers in this mordant debut novel. “It is only once I am sure my students are well placed to become very jealous of each other that I pick my scapegoat,” the saxophone instructor tells a pupil during one of the half-hour lessons that punctuate the novel. The plot follows one of those students, Isolde, and her classmates at Abbey Grange (“colloquially known as Scabby Grange, or Abbey Grunge, depending on your mood”), a hotbed of schoolgirl crushes and nervous gossip. Meanwhile, at the prestigious acting institute nearby, Theater of Cruelty exercises are just that, and the earnest students’ final project aims to re-enact a sex scandal that involved Isolde’s sister and an older teacher. Ms. Catton, a New Zealander, was 23 when she published the novel at home. She is now a student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Read the other five mini-reviews at NYT.

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