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The Rehearsal: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 17, 2010

3.3 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, May 17, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Theater, says one of the characters in Catton's shrewd if turgid debut, is a concentrate of life as normal. This idea must be embraced in order to enjoy a novel in which the characters speak and act as if on stage. The girls at the Abbey Grange school are shocked by an affair between a teacher and a student, but Catton aptly observes that they are mostly disappointed by being only peripherally involved in such delicious drama. The girls confide in their saxophone teacher, a puppet-mistress straight out of Notes on a Scandal, who becomes intent on orchestrating a relationship between two of the girls when not delivering monologues on teaching and the psychology of teenage girls. A subplot follows bland first-year drama student Stanley and his increasing involvement with a group of Abbey Grange students focused on staging a play that will also provide a convenient narrative collision point. The novel's real subject is the performance of human life, and in this respect, Catton's choice of adolescent girls and drama students is apt, though the cast is limiting and their revelations repetitive. It's a good piece of writing, but not an especially enjoyable novel. (May)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Written as her master’s thesis in creative writing, New Zealand author Catton’s first novel was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. Considering the author was only in her early twenties when she wrote it, The Rehearsal is a tour de force that tells two stories simultaneously while delighting in doubles, parallels, and couples. The first story is of the sexual abuse of a high-school girl by her adult (male) music coach; the second is of how a neighboring drama school adopts this incident as the dramatic core of its year-end performance. Performance is the operative word here, for the two stories, which gradually come together, are presented scenically (some complete with stage directions) with dialogue that is less human speech than declamation or dramatic monologue. Readers are invited to consider that adolescence is a rehearsal for adulthood, various characters trying on personae and emerging sexual identities as they might costumes for a performance. Linking the girls’ stories is their female saxophone teacher, a powerfully realized character who serves as surrogate analyst and stage manager of their lives. That scenes are often presented nonchronologically, plus the fact that the line between performance and reality grows increasingly blurred, renders this a challenging and sometimes overintellectualized read, but the combination of beautiful writing and inventive, nontraditional structure still make it a dazzling debut. --Michael Cart

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books; 1 edition (May 17, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316074330
  • ASIN: B005IV14BU
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,051,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Pamela A. Poddany VINE VOICE on June 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )

We meet Victoria and Isolde, two sisters who attend a private girls school, Abbey Grange. A short distance away is the Drama Institute. These two establishments collide when an affair between Victoria and her teacher, Mr. Saladin, comes to light. The Drama Institute takes on this scandal and works it into their year-end performance production.

The book deals with the reactions of students to the shocking affair between Victoria and Mr. Saladin. Many of the students share their thoughts with the saxophone teacher who tutors many of them. The saxophone teacher, in my humble opinion, was the most outstanding character in this book. Her dry and witty humor, outspoken remarks, her almost cruel conversations and observations were simply hilarious and made her very life-like and believable.

As for the other characters, they seemed almost cardboard in comparison to the saxophone tutor who stole the entire show -- for me.

The book takes place within a year's time. The chapters read quickly and are headed by days of the week and/or month. The book revolves around the students reactions, thoughts, and the consequences of the affair.

Ms. Catton was in her early 20's when she wrote this book, which was written as her master's thesis for creative writing! This book was honored by being shortlisted for the 2009 Guardian First Book Award. Ms. Catton's writing skills have much to offer to the literary world.

This book is well written and reads in a very different and interesting fashion. Real life and the drama of the theater clash together. However, this book was hard for me to read and I felt as if I were plodding through. I wanted to enjoy it much more than I did, but it just wasn't my cuppa.

Thank you.

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Format: Paperback
If you are the type of person who wants their novels to start at the beginning, build character and plot before coming to a satisfying "they all lived happily ever after" ending, then avoid this book at all costs. You will hate it. But I cannot remember when I last enjoyed a book as much as this one. For a first novel, it is ambitious, daring and complex, and yet it works beautifully. I would not be surprised if this wins a number of awards this year - it has all the ingredients that the award-givers seem to love.

The basis for the story is a scandal at a school involving a music teacher, Mr Saladin, and Victoria, the elder sister of one of the main characters, Isolde. This impact of this event is viewed both from the point of view of the girls at the school, and also as the basis for an end of year drama production by the local drama Institute. The two stories start separately, but inevitably mesh as the book progresses. The drama school bit is arguably a bit of a stretched conceit, but this is forgivable as the author explores the concepts of reality and performance. But this is just one of the aspects of this book.

Was the errant Mr Saladin any worse than the dark and mysterious "saxophone teacher" whose attempts to control and interfere with her charges appears at times more sinister than Mr Saladin's sexual urges. But her habit of speaking exactly what she thinks is hilarious at times. And the author's psychological insights into the fears of teenagers growing up are beautifully observed. And how does the media (in this case a play) reflect reality - and does reality exist - and how much of it is performance (as Shakespeare once noted), and so much more....

There's dark humour aplenty mixed with the fears and excitement of growing up.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Reading this debut novel was like sitting in a black box theatre watching a play, suspended in time, and often like watching a rehearsal of the play that I am watching. As the characters move into focus, the lighting techniques add a perspective to the dialog. Just like a play's story is told through dialog; lighting; and movement (called blocking in theater lingo), Catton's novel coheres and communicates through the visible frame of a theatre lens; the boundaries of the theatre are the boundaries of the narrative technique that she employed to tell this story. Any action that is not possible within the constraints of a stage is not part of the immediate action of the novel. In lesser hands, this could have gotten weary for the reader. However, it felt like Catton effortlessly exhaled this novel. The theme of escaping yourself--of desperately wanting to be someone else--is a context of narrative construction as well as foundation for the story.

The story takes place between three neighboring groups of students. The Drama Institute is a drama college for aspiring actors, and the girls' high school, Abbey Grange, is an elite private school. The music school rounds out the settings of this novel. The sax teacher, a female of unknown identity, is often seen in shadow or startling light. Speaking of identity, only first or last names are identified, all except for one replacement teacher, Jean Critchley, who came on board when music teacher Mr. Saladin was let go. He had a scandalous affair with Victoria, one of the girls from Abbey Grange. This affair is the centerpiece story, from which all other stories, themes, and actions unfold. The abbreviated names personify the characters and their motivations in shadow for much of the story.
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