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Alone in the Classroom Paperback – Deckle Edge, Apr 10 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Emblem Editions (April 10 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 077103797X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771037979
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #203,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A Globe and Mail Best Book

"Luminous. . . . Alone in the Classroom is meant to be read slowly, or even better, read twice. The story that unfolds, replete with poetry and punishment, passionate entanglements and incestuous love, is even richer and more rewarding the second time around." 
—Globe and Mail
 
"Gripping. . . . A multilayered tale, the novel is at once a love story, a murder mystery and a journey into the darkest chambers of the human heart. Transcendent prose. . . . [Hay] conveys masterfully the complex power plays of the classroom." 
Ottawa Citizen


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

ELIZABETH HAY is the author of the Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning novel Late Nights On Air as well as three other award-winning works of fiction, Small Change, A Student of Weather, and Garbo Laughs. Formerly a radio broadcaster, she has spent time in Mexico and New York City, and now lives in Ottawa.


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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn on June 7 2011
Format: Hardcover
In this spectacularly subtle novel, Giller prizewinner Elizabeth Hay (for Late Nights on Air) braids family history and natural history, and paints an intricate, beguiling portrait of rural Canadian life in Saskatchewan and in the Ottawa Valley. Spanning the years 1927-2007, it opens up with the brutal murder of young schoolgirl Ethel Wier in 1937 Argyle (Ottawa Valley), a silver pail of chokecherries spilled near her bruised and battered body, half-full, and the other pail empty.

This tragedy unfolds not in isolation, but connects gradually to a confluence of other markers in the history of the Flood family, and the land, and culminates in an unbearably beautiful graveyard scene that encompasses various strands and prongs of multi-generational lives.

"You touch a place and thousands of miles away another place quivers. You touch a person and down the line the ghosts of relatives move in the wind."

Historian and writer Anne Flood takes a back seat in the first two-thirds of the novel, relating the story of her fiercely independent aunt and schoolteacher, Connie Flood, a woman of "unzipped, risqué fun." This also signals the incipient events of Connie's family commingling with Anne's. And at the library, Anne stumbles across some facets of history that have fallen into the crevices of time.

"...a child discovers something the parent has neglected to tell her and brings it into view again, naming it and locating it and establishing its importance." And this is the thematic thrust of the novel.

Sentient life is thickly threaded with the landscape, from the fertile marshland to the ripe vegetation, the narrow dirt roads and woody smells of childhood, the wide flat rocks and wildflowers, the dry and liquid movement of the seasons.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on June 8 2011
Format: Hardcover
Reason for Reading: I've been interested in reading this author for a while now and haven't got around to it yet. The early 1930's and the Saskatchewan setting pulled me into starting off with her latest book.

An excellent book! Though a hard one to describe. The plot has many layers and is meandering to the point where it is not exactly what drives the book. The book is most certainly character driven and the relationships between these characters are what propels the story along. The story covers the time period from 1929 to 2008 and focuses on one Connie Flood, a school teacher, journalist, traveler; a woman of independence who takes lovers as she wants them and lives life to its fullest according to her small needs though she has a large presence. The book is told from the point of view of Connie's niece, who is telling the story from the first person, looking back telling a tale of which she is omniscient from each individual character's thoughts and feelings. This pov was hard to get used to, I must admit. The narrator only appears in the beginnings of the story a few times and when the word "I" is used I found it confusing to remember that "I" was not Connie but the narrator, Anne. This becomes more clear a little over half way through the book when Anne actually becomes a character in the story but then the flipping from near past to far past with this continued point of view still felt unusual to me. Now, it's not that I was totally annoyed with the pov, it was just hard to remember who was telling the tale, and it did slow down my reading speed.

The characters and their relationships, mostly triangles, are what make this book such an enticing, intense read.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER on June 10 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With her new novel 'Alone in the Classroom', Elizabeth Hay is taking us on a journey into an inner world that is, at least in one aspect or another, familiar to all of us. Each of us has been 'alone in the classroom', just staring at walls or out of a window, struggling with a crucial test; or, emotionally alone, subdued, frightened... in front of a teacher or a principal. It is often said that memories of (positive or negative) school situations are among the most vivid recollections we carry with us through the rest of our lives. Learning life's lessons, re-discovering the past, memorable individuals and relationships, are at the core of Hay's beautifully crafted and deeply affecting novel. With her gentle touch, exquisitely perceptive observations, expressed in a richly imaginative and poetic language, Hay brings her characters to life as complex individuals, who can be nurtured or harmed by those whose paths they cross, again and again, as if they were all entangled in a loosely, or sometimes tightly, knotted net of relationships. Be they teacher or pupil, lover, friend or foe, or family, they share intimate bonds that filter through several generations.

The novel opens with one of several disturbing and tragic events: One day in August 1937, thirteen-year-old Ethel Weir wandered off by herself to pick chokecherries that grew abundantly in the brush at the edge of the woods near her home in the Ottawa Valley. By sunset she was found, viciously murdered. Many years later, Anne, the first-person story teller, has returned to the town, the place of her mother's childhood, to retrace what happened that day and in the weeks and months that followed. "Stories from her past draw me on", she muses.
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