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4.4 out of 5 stars
Cracks (Film Tie in)
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on 30 August 2017
I saw the film first and was intrigued by the characters and plot. The film is set in England and the girl who comes into this fusty girl's school is Spanish. In the book, which was of course the original setting, the scene is South Africa and the school rather more like a surreal dreamscape. The author presents herself as a character in the book but does not idealise herself in any way. I found the book slightly suffocating but then that is part of the story's point. It covers important themes of a charismatic teacher who seeks to bring her girls under her personal and sexual power. But she cannot control all and her jealousy runs out of control. The school like most schools of its type naturally tries to suppress the events for the sake of its 'good name'. It made me glad that I had never been tempted to become a teacher!
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on 21 February 2017
Beautifully written and owing a debt to Baroness Lindsay's novel in its detailed period setting and the ever-present ancient landscape acting as a character in its own right. The characters are well drawn with the sinister Miss G's Prometheus-like teacher both inspiring creativity and sexual hysteria among her young charges. It was a dead cert to make a terrific film, but they inexplicably ditched South Africa for England/Ireland making the whole exercise pointless. Read the book, love it as a book. It needs no adaptation.
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on 1 January 2011
I watched the film Cracks at the cinema. Beautifully shot at a girl's school in County Meath, Ireland, the story unfolds of a newcomer who has an enormous effect on the behaviour of the girls and teacher already at the school. I later read the book and was surprised to find that the original story was set in South Africa, where the heat and conditions at the isolated school added to the tensions of the relationships between the characters. We learn more of their characteristics and backgrounds in the book, although the shocking secret kept by the girls is unexpected when revealed. Even after seeing the film and thinking that I knew the story, I was unprepared for the events leading up to the climax, re-lived at a school reunion when the girls (now women) are bound by unspoken secrets. Sheila Kohler's beautifully conceived story is both shocking and mesmerising as the reader is immersed in boarding school life where the introduction of the strong-willed foreign girl to the school changes their lives forever. Read it!
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on 10 May 2002
I read this book in one sitting; it really is so compelling. The writing is deliciously fluid, the words easily and perfectly chosen. The prose is spare and not one word is superfluous. The author's descriptive abilities are so well honed that you feel like you inhabit the pages; you can smell the dry, parched landscapes and feel the rising heat of the land. You experience the open space of the South African countryside and you are drawn into the closeted hothouse life of the girls' school. Sheila Kohler captures the adolescent confusion of growing up and trying to be grown up, of burgeoning sexuality and repression perfectly. The chain of events which befall the girls takes on a life of its own and rattle along at a fast pace.
The book is at times shocking, but completely believable and no details are spared regarding the girls' competitive brutality. She portrays their friendships in ripe detail, and I am sure that female readers in particular will be able to relate to the intensity and the many oddities of these young friendships. Their interaction with the unusual and charismatic teacher who is catalytic to events is well captured. I will not give any of the plot away, suffice it to say that you are kept reading until the very end for the denouement to reveal itself.
It is a book of contrasts, of immense joys and disappointments. Ultimately it is about coming to terms with our pasts and the secrets which haunt lives and bind people together.
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on 14 June 2013
I came to this on the back of a later work by Kohler Becoming Jane Eyre. The publisher blurb puts this as a mid territory between The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Penguin Modern Classics) (adolescent girls, charismatic and influential teacher) and Lord of the Flies (civilisation is only the merest smear of covering for barbarism, particularly in the young, who haven't yet learned the inhibiting of their barbaric nature).

Although Kohler writes well, for this reader, she does not contain and build up the tension in the way both Spark and Golding do. Part of this is because there is quite a lot of explicit sexuality, rather than implicit or covert, which rather inhibited both the shock of the journey, and its focus.

The story is of a group of women coming back to a boarding school reunion where a cataclysmic event had happened some forty years earlier.

The most interesting device was the use of a character with the author's name, and some of the author's background - Sheila Kohler, a South African born girl, who later moves to America and becomes a writer, her subject matter often involving murder. So inevitably, there was a disturbing sense of 'Is this real?' 'Did this actually happen' which certainly did add to a sense of unease, for the reader - but also, paradoxically, created a watchful, observant distance (the writer's eye?) which made me over-aware of the structure and devices used in the writing, disengaging me from real involvement
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on 8 June 2012
This is probably one of my favourite books. I couldn't put it down. You can almost feel the thick heat of the South African veld, the smell Miss G's cigarettes and the feel of the girl's scratchy uniforms at the back of your neck. Kohler really draws you into the girls' day to day life at the boarding school, and the curious events that took place. But don't think that this is your usual "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" boarding school innocence novel, not at all. This is a very dark novel, right from the beginning, and a great ending. It's written in first person plural from the girls' point of view, looking back as adults, but there is no named narrator, except that one of the girl's is named Sheila Kholer, and is said to have 'wrote it all down for us.' It's refreshingly different.
I think this is a love it or hate it kind of book judging by reviews online, but it's really worth giving it a go. I enjoyed every page of it and have re-read it many times. I also recommend the film (which is what prompted me to read the book) although it is very different, they've really captured the feel of the book and the plot line is pretty much the same.
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on 3 March 2013
Set in an all girls boarding-school, it centres on the school's swimming team and their teacher, the vibrant and enigmatic Miss G. But when a new girl arrives at the school and joins the team, Miss G's obsession for her changes everything the girls ever knew. The usual bitchiness and backstabbing spirals out of control and leads to drastic consequences. The book has been adapted into a fantastic film starring Eva Green which is quite faithful, excluding a few changes. To be honest, though I enjoyed reading the book, I do prefer the film (this is probably the first time I've ever said such a thing!). The book is beautifully written, the language somehow stimulating all of the senses.
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on 22 August 2014
Sheila Kohler's writing style was not for me. She chooses her beautiful words very carefully BUT her characters lack emotional depth and realism. All, (except maybe the persona of Fiamma), are like empty caricatures.The story is also very strangely structured... Couldn't enjoy it. Maybe it's just MY fault, can't say...
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on 15 July 2012
Yes, this is what boarding schools were really like between the wars and having won diving awards in those days I much appreciated the efforts of the team involved; Eva Green's performamce was remarkable. Michael
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on 28 September 2016
Great story, actually watched the film first which I liked and made me want to read it too.
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