BOOK REVIEW: The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

The Rehearsal by Eleanor CattonThe Rehearsal
By Eleanor Catton
Completed July 15, 2012

I was interested in reading The Rehearsal because it’s set primarily at an all-girls’ high school. As a graduate of an all-women’s college, I think the social dynamic of a single-sex educational institution could make a stellar background for a story. And for The Rehearsal, it does provide an interesting foundation, but The Rehearsal didn’t focus strictly on the relationship among young women. It was more artsy and cerebral.

The book revolves around a sex scandal between a student and her jazz teacher. The scandal rocks the small campus, disrupting the trust between parents and teachers; students and fellow students; and students and their instructors. Interestingly, the betrayal felt by the students was most startling. The student, Victoria, kept the affair from her friends, and when Victoria returns to school, her friends told her that to be forgiven, she must divulge the details about her affair. Is that a natural reaction? I am not sure.

Meanwhile, Catton throws in two other storylines – that of Stanley, a first-year student at a prestigious drama school, and the saxophone teacher, who is connected to many of the students affected by the sex scandal. (Side note: The conversations between the saxophone teacher and her students’ parents were entertaining as heck). All three storylines combine at the end – albeit abruptly – to wrap this story up like a bow.

Here’s my main complaint about The Rehearsal: the artful, intelligent aspects of this novel felt contrived – like when you’re speaking to someone who talks about classical music just to give you the impression he’s intelligent. The story was there; the characters were multi-dimensional and the writing style was provocative. The Rehearsal is Catton’s first novel, and I suspect she’ll get better and better with time.

In the meantime, I will continue to look for books set at all-women’s schools and colleges, searching for an intelligent, realistic representation of this unique social situation. If have any suggestions, please let me know. (  )


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Patricia
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 01:57:44

    My favourite is Susan Swan’s The Wives of Bath.


  2. Beth Parks Aronson
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 02:26:26

    Where did you go to school? I taught at a summer program at Wellesley for several summers and loved the campus. And I worked at the Lincoln School for Girls in Providence and Marymount Manhattan for a couple years when it was all women except the theater program (??!!!).


  3. BermudaOnion
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 03:12:24

    It does sound like Catton is an author to watch for!


  4. neerrr
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 18:34:42

    You can have a look at Nayana Currimbhoy’s Miss Timmins School for Girls. I didn’t enjoy it much but people have.


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