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The English Teacher Paperback – June 7, 2006
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- Publisher : Grove Press; Reprint edition (June 7, 2006)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0802142664
- ISBN-13 : 978-0802142665
- Item Weight : 10.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.62 x 0.76 x 8.08 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #291,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Two real weak points in this one: The story takes a rather unbelievable swerve near the end and it is never clear why Vida gets married.
The first three quarters, or so, is quite good and then the swerve occurs.
Unlike Olive who taught at a local public school, Vida teaches at a private Maine school, also on the coast--actually on an island. And she is the mother of fifteen-year-old Peter. At the beginning of this novel, Vida marries, actually for the first time although no one at her school is aware of that. They assume that since she has been Mrs. Avery all these years at the school, the English teacher with the highest standards, the one who has been awarded the school's highest honor four times as best teacher, voted so by her students. But now she very quickly has become Mrs. Belou, the new wife of a widower with three children. And suddenly Peter has step siblings, and his new stepfather has just walked into a marriage with a woman who is clueless about love. Hers has been an adult life dedicated to her teaching, dedicated to the literature she loves.
And one of the many elements of this novel that make it so special is the degree to which the novelist has treaded literary references to the plot of the novel, starting suddenly with a reference to Lena, the central character in Faulkner's "Light in August" except the writer does not even tell us the name of the novel. Only those of us who have read it know. It is that type of novel. And, of course, as Vida--Mrs. Ayers? Mrs. Below?--guides the students through the thicket of "Tess of the d'Urbervilles," we see how our protagonist has essentially allowed herself to be a modern Tess.
The novel is set against the backdrop of the Iranian hostage crisis that undid the presidency of Jimmy Carter. And there is another hostage crisis as well: Vida, the stepmother. And Vida the mother, holding people hostage because she has so many issues about being in control. But I will say no more about that.
This is also a novel with just beautifully controlled point of view. We are allowed to see how Peter views the world in which he struggles to survive as well as Vida's new husband and his three children.
This is just the most incredible novel, right up there with "Olive Kitteridge."
fortunately there are still authors that treasure each line and word, and are able to transmit emotional and intellectual impact beautifully and economically at the same time. Even seemingly trivial details are eloquently rendered, increasing the color and texture of this fine literary work. and she uses a slightly whimsical device of having the protagonist, the English teacher, teaching the reader at the same time she teaches her class, how to appreciate literature through probing Hardy's Tess (one of my favorite novels). the author reminds us as few authors do today, that words matter.
Top reviews from other countries
But the protagonist had problems that were too serious for her to deal with on her own. So her new husband and step children and her own son had to bear the brunt of her selfish behaviour. I wanted to slap her half the time I was reading this book. She was not at all likable, due of course to no fault of her own. But even in the midst of horrible memories, we have to sometimes move on, grow up and deal with it for the sake of others. Not this protagonist though. She didnt care what she was putting others through
Its a very well written book though. Maybe the author wants us to feel contempt for the central character ... if so, it worked