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Chels & a Book

Alone in the Classroom

Alone in the Classroom - Elizabeth Hay It seems to be a running theme that I have a hard time rating books these days. Goodreads star ratings get more and more difficult as my understanding of different books becomes more and more complex. There are certain things I thoroughly enjoyed about this book (mainly the writing) and things I did not enjoy (the fact that it was so literary). Let me explain!This is my first Elizabeth Hay book and though I do love beautiful writing, I often find that stories get lost in description with highly literary novels. This was my problem with Alone in the Classroom. The story is told by a woman named Anne, the niece of the main focus of the story, Connie. Connie was a teacher in a small school with a total of 4 staff members including the extremely eerie and curious Ian "Parley" Burns. Connie cannot shake the wrong feeling Parley gives her and never quite forgives him for a horrible incident she is sure he took too far, but never truly knows. After the tragic death of one of their students, Parley moves away. The book follows Connie through other tragedies that occur, including another death, the loss of her marriage and the questionable actions of Anne herself.The story was slightly confusing in that you were never quite sure who was meant to have your attention, or why Connie had 2/3 of the book and Anne 1/3 at the end. Parley is so important to the first 1/3 but becomes secondary compared to the complicated love story that powers the rest of the book. The term "alone in the classroom" is actually the structure of the book. Instances where characters feel or literally are ALONE with a (sometimes real, sometimes symbolic) teacher.Like most literary novels, I found that the tension and anxiety in the book builds up to these tremendous events that are then glazed over. In one way, I find that my imagination goes wild and fills in all the blanks for me, making the story slightly my own, but in another, I feel like there are gaps in my understanding of what is going on. I love details and being forced to accept that Hay leaves perhaps the biggest event in the story up for interpretation made me slightly anxious.All in all, Hay's writing was beautiful and there is no doubt that the woman deserved her Giller Prize a few years ago, but the problems I had with this book were the same that I had with many other literary novels: tell me more! Perhaps my favourite part of this book was the eerie feeling it gave me. Parley made me ridiculously uncomfortable, just like he made Connie and Michael intrigued me, just as he intrigued her. In that respect, this novel was quite the success. In the whole plot section, I wished there was a little more to grasp onto.