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Schooling Paperback – June 25, 2002

3.5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her emotionally resonant and keenly observed first novel, McGowan employs a stream-of-consciousness prose style to describe the trials of a 13-year-old American girl when she is sent to an English boarding school following the death of her mother. From Maine, Catrine Evans travels to Monstead, the school north of London that her father, Teddy, born in Wales, attended during WWII. His memories of Monstead are halcyon, but the reality is different for Catrine, who is subjected to hazing by intensely class-conscious, cynical students who smoke, sniff glue and commit arson. Poised on the threshold between childhood and adolescence, Catrine's na‹vet‚ begins to harden into defensiveness when she realizes that even those who do begin to befriend her still consider her an outsider. Memories of her mother are painful, and she is also increasingly troubled by the knowledge that she and her friend Isabelle, back in Maine, may have caused a fatal accident. Unable to connect with her father, Catrine turns to her chemistry teacher, Mr. Gilbert, who seems to consider her special and encourages her interest in art. As this relationship progresses, Catrine faces the toughest lessons of all: she must learn to know her own mind and the limits and consequences of her emotional needs. McGowan works in an experimental mode. At once lush and harsh, and inventive in form, the novel reads like an extended sensory exercise. Readers who prefer a straightforward narrative may be bemused, but those willing to accept the challenge will be rewarded with a beautifully written coming-of-age tale. (June 19)Forecast: Blurbs from writers as varied as Rick Moody, Jonathan Lethem and Alice Hoffman should give some idea of McGowan's range. Though initially she may be consigned to the writer's-writer ghetto, some good reviews and handselling could get the novel out to a wider audience.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

McGowan's first novel tells the story of 13-year-old Catrine Evans, who moves with her father from Maine to his native England where he places her in the boarding school that he attended. While adjusting to losing her mother, living in a foreign country, and attending a new school, Catrine is also attempting to come to terms with her participation in a reckless prank that may have cost someone's life. Filled with guilt and loneliness and yearning for love and attention, she becomes entranced with her chemistry teacher. McGowan, former writing coordinator at the Fine Arts Works Center, Provincetown, MA, combines a stream-of-consciousness, first-person narrative with dramatized representations of events, bits of third-person narrative, and sporadic journal entries. As a result, navigating one's way through the novel is not an easy task; the very nature of the narrative leaves the reader confused about motivations and intentions and about what Catrine is imagining vs. what is really happening. Still, McGowan's narrative techniques are unique and intriguing and call for repeated readings. Recommended for academic literature collections.
- Rebecca Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs., IA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 25, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375714324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375714320
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #644,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A brand new style of coming of age novel. Heather McGowan deserves kudos, as do her publishers, for the bravery it took to select this book as a first novel. It's not an easy read, written in stream of consciousness with minimal paragraphing and punctuation. After reading maybe 5 pages, I admit I flipped through the rest of the book to see if it was ALL written like this (it was), then sighed and figured I was in for 'an experience.' One reviewer suggested reading it aloud, and I tried that with a page or two: it works very well. You have to be in a certain frame of mind to fall under the spell of this book - relaxed, trusting, and open to new experiences. When you get tripped up, as I did and as you will, with the lyricism of the writing in long looping-back-upon-themselves sentences, don't stop and reread - just go for it, keep reading along and letting the music and images carry you on this journey between childhood and adolescence.
Okay. Enough about the style of the writing (experimental, I think, describes it well). The story is great. Catrine, a 13yo from Maine whose mother has recently died, is sent to a boarding school north of London that her father went to during WWII. He reminisces with her about the wonderful experiences he had there and about the excellent education she can expect to receive.
Catrine, however, has a different experience, exposed to hazing, cruelty, cynicism, and the difficulty of always living as an outsider. She is troubled by the realization that she and a friend from her childhood may have caused a death, and she is confused by her the attentions shown to her by Mr. Gilbert, her chemistry teacher and the one person who seems to consider her special. Good stuff.
I'll be curious to see in what style McGowan writes her next book.
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By Maria on August 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
I read this book when it was first released, it did not make a great impact on me immediately, but over time "Schooling" has reappeared in my thoughts numerous times. So, I had to write this review after reading that miserable griping below. Yes this book can seem a bit pretentious (i.e. inaccessible) at times, but "Schooling" is nonetheless fey, witty, and unforgettable. Yes, fey and witty. No kidding. This is not your typical coming of age adolescent girl coming of age novel about (...) boyfriends. Thankfully, McGowan's heroine is clever and vulnerable-- and the adults (her father, a teacher who has an inappropriate interest in her) surrounding her possess a combination of longing and nostalgia that is at times heartbreaking. And the other kids in the novel are, well, like kids. funny, brutal, smart, goofy. like we all were or are at one time or another. Yes there are moments when McGowan's words will seem foggy, you may need to re-read a passage here and there, but it is ultimately rewarding. A beautiful novel. Buy it and put a little money in this wonderful novelist's pocket so she will write another.
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Format: Hardcover
I wrote the starred review of Schooling in Booklist Magazine (you can read it above in the 'editorial reviews' section), and I have to take issue with people who say that the book is too difficult, or that it offers little in the way of ample rewards. Schooling was as good as any first novel I can remember reading in all of my time reviewing at Booklist.
The complaint that's always made about literary fiction, and that has been leveled at everyone since James Joyce, is that it's just pure ostentation, a sort of "look ma no hands" linguistic showmanship. That's not, however, why McGowan's book is difficult. The book is difficult to read -- at least at first -- because it is an entirely refreshing reading experience. Because the novel's central character Catrine, is young, and because she is scared and small and growing into an understanding of herself, she is inarticulate.
But despite her inability to articulate words or thoughts, we come to know Catrine very intimately, and MacGowan manages to make her inarticulate thoughts and words the stuff of great literary fiction.
The book can be difficult to read, because it is unlike most books (more challenging in structure than even, say, DFW's Infinite Jest). But eventually McGowan gets you inside Catrine's head, and once that happens, it's no different than any other absorbing reading experience.
Is there adequate payoff for the challenge? I'd say so. I'd say that Ms. McGowan is an enormous literary talent, that her explorations of memory, childhood, and life ont he outside are as compelling as any I've read. If the final message fails to deliver a knock out punch to some readers, I'd say that maybe that's because the messages we can garner from living and schooling are, like Catrine, utterly inarticulate.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this book several years ago, and I liked it, despite not being particularly fond of the stream of consciousness style. But it has stayed in my mind, so much so that I may have to read it again, which I rarely do. It is unconventional, but not difficult to read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
So many people said that this novel was excellent. I found it a bit difficult to get on with. I think the opening pages give you a really good insight into the pace and story, so if you "look inside" you should have a very good idea if this is your type of thing or not.
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