I read, a little. (Or lots.) Did you know? I find I haven’t checked the “books” box on this blog often enough lately. Probably because I haven’t felt particularly inspired by anything I’ve read lately. Oh sure, sure, there was Gone Girl and Marjorie Morningstar, both of which I sort of put off posting about while I chewed on what I felt about them, both separately and together.
But last night I bit my husband’s head off because he disturbed me while I was trying to finish a book. The nerve! Could only mean one thing: I was deep into a really, really good one.
‘Oh, but why can’t the two girls just perform a duologue about themselves?’ the saxophone teacher says, enjoying herself. ‘A play written for two girls.’
‘There aren’t any,’ Julia says. ‘There aren’t any plays about two girls. There aren’t any roles like that. That’s why you have to pretend.’
The Rehearsal, by Eleanor Catton, is the kind of book I wish I had the talent to write. It’s intimate, about women without being domestic (so rare and difficult to pull off!), and is just slightly odd and off-kilter. At the heart of the plot is an affair between a male teacher and a 17-year-old female student. The book is fallout: people close to the affair, people far away from the affair, talking, writing, performing, reacting to what happened between Victoria and Mr. Saladin.
The narrative shuttles between a saxophone teacher, whose students have been more or less touched by the affair, and an 18-year-old boy, a drama student across town. Both figures are guideposts for the other characters, while being pretty confused themselves about how they fit into their own lives. As the characters from the two spheres start to interact, the story both comes together and starts to unravel.
I loved most the descriptions of female adolescence, of girls relating to other girls, to adults, to boys, and to men. Catton’s two years younger than I am (!!) and she seems to remember well what it’s like to grow up smart and observant in a sea of hormone-addled peers. Instead of skewing sentimental, as so much writing about girls does, Catton stays sharp, clean, and poised, and the book is unusual and refreshing for it. Also, it is brilliant.
(See the snarled pea-green yarn knots? I’m also trying to practice my knitting so that one day I can make one of these gorgeous cowls that everyone else seems to just oh la make for themselves. It’s going to take a LOT of TV time for me to get that good. 🙂 )