Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insane But Genius, 20 July 2010
This review is from: The Rehearsal (Paperback)
I loved this book.

Structured like a deck of cards shuffled and re-shuffled again, the plot switches back and forth between two main narrative threads: the first concerning Stanley, a budding young actor who has enrolled at a drama school, and the other concerning the fallout from a sex scandal at a neighbouring high school. When the students at the drama school decide to use the scandal as the basis for an end-of-year production, life begins to imitate art in more than ways one as their lives are drawn inexorably closer together.

Holding it all together (after a fashion) is a nameless saxaphone teacher at the high school ... who functions as a Chorus of sorts, commentating on the action elsewhere, but acting as a confidante not just for her pupils but (it seems) for all who come into contact with her. As she listens, however, the reader is offered glimpses of the saxaphone teacher's own sense of regret at her personal history.

I read elsewhere that this book is almost like a display of different surfaces, and I found that a really good description. In constructing a story-within-a-story-within-a-story in a hall-of-mirrors style, Catton continually asks not only the question "What is real?" but also "What is fiction?", "Who is reading/viewing?" and "who is *being* read?". If this sounds too-clever-by-half, at this book's heart is a universal, humane story about the trials and pitfalls of adolescence and passing into adulthood. It has a lot of interesting, thought-provoking questions to pose about the nature of gender as a "performance"' and there are poignant as well as comedic moments (I'm not sure if that was because much of the premise of this reminded me of a sub-plot in the brilliant Australian sitcom "Summer Heights High", but still ... !).

What is scary is that the author was not yet 25 years old when she wrote this. If you like your fiction contemporary, unconventional, and to take you on an exhilarating ride, buy and enjoy this book!
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