Fiction Alone in the classroom omnivore review

Published on October 21st, 2013


Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Hay

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Blurb: n 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. (MacLehose, 2013)

Laura Wilson, The Guardian

“It’s a testament to the quality of Hay’s writing that the lack of a traditional ending tantalises rather than disappoints; and the villain, Principal Parley Burns, who moves through the school “like mustard gas in subtle form”, is one of the most memorable villains I’ve ever encountered.”

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Maria Crawford, The Financial Times

“As the book progresses it becomes clear that Alone in the Classroom is less a whodunnit than a who’s who of the Flood family (mainly the women) and the characters (mainly men) who influence their lives over the better part of a century. Ethel’s murder is simply the jumping-off point for an exquisite study of relationships, narrated by Connie’s niece Anne, which meanders in graceful prose across the Canadian landscape and across generations.”

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Paul Binding, The Spectator

“The presentation of Connie’s reactions to the events of both 1929 and 1937 is made by Connie’s niece (and admiring younger friend), Anne Flood, who, with her Ottawa residence, second marriage, and writing career, would seem a surrogate for the author herself. As we near recent times, Anne takes over in first person, a shift in vantage-point making for challenges to writer and reader. The purely technical ones Hay, a highly accomplished and resourceful stylist, manages gracefully enough, not least in the retroactive light Anne can now throw on what has gone before. But she also puts herself emotionally into the foreground, which inevitably diminishes the first part’s considerable claustrophobic power, its sense of feminine innocence threatened by male guile.”

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