Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

notes on a scandal

Synopsis from Amazon:

When the new teacher first arrives, Barbara immediately senses that this woman will be different from the rest of her staff-room colleagues. But Barbara is not the only one to feel that Sheba is special, and before too long Sheba is involved in an illicit affair with a pupil. Barbara finds the relationship abhorrent, of course, but she is the only adult in whom Sheba can properly confide. So when the liaison is found out and Sheba’s life falls apart, Barbara is there…

Sheba is a new teacher at school; she is a pottery teacher and is instantly spotted by Barbara. She is different from the other new teachers, she keeps herself to her room and doesn’t participate in staff room gossip. Sheba meets Steven Connolly in detention, where she discovers he has some artist talent. She starts giving him tutorials after school, where their relationship blossoms. Soon they are having a sexual affair, a pupil and a teacher. During this time the friendship between Sheba and Barbara has been blossoming. Sheba confides in Barbara about Connolly. This affair cannot remain hidden forever, and when the people find out what has happened Barbara is there for Sheba; but what is her motivation?

This is a book which focuses on a controversial issue – pupils having sex with students when they are underage. Heller is brave writing this book, especially as she questions the portrayal of these teachers, and the different treatment male and female offenders receive. Heller looks at reasons why teachers would enter into this relationship, the effect feelings have over a person, regardless of age and who will stand beside you whatever you have done. She also studies spinstership, how the woman is portrayed and what it could do to you.

I enjoyed this book but I didn’t like the characters – I was gripped by the story and what the outcome would be. I found it an interesting read; a sensitive subject manner and I wanted to know how Heller would write it. I found Barbara manipulating and judgmental and Sheba delusional and a liar. This is a good read because even though I didn’t like the characters they did spark a reaction.

This was not a fast read but a well written book and a good read.

8/10

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Dying Unfinished by Maria Espinosa

dying unfinished

Synopsis taken from information given to: http://www.bookclubforum.co.uk

Using her own love-rage relationship with her mom as a catalyst, American Book Award winner Maria Espinosa weaves fact and fiction in her latest highly acclaimed novel Dying Unfinished. A novelist, poet, translator, and teacher, who has been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, New York Review of Books, and The San Francisco Chronicle, Maria is featured in the Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series. This latest book is the follow-up to her critically acclaimed novel Longing.

“Dying Unfinished is a lyrical novel that takes place over three generations and that reminds us of the arduousness, and even desolation, of love relationships-between husband and wife, spouse and lover, mother and daughter…”–Kirkus Reviews–

Dying Unfinished is about a mother and daughter’s difficult relationship made more so by the mother’s affair with her daughter’s husband. Narrated by both women this tumultuous story coincides with a 70 year period where the world under went massive change.

This story is about Eleanor and her daughter Rosa. Both have problems – Eleanor finds it difficult to communicate and there is a deep sadness in her, and Rosa has mental health problems. The book recalls events in both their lives – flashing from the present to the past. Eleanor remembering her childhood, searching for her identity and happiness, raising three children and trying to love Rosa. Rosa, struggling with her schizophrenia, trying to find her identity and trying to please her mother. The book is narrated by both Eleanor and Rosa, giving an insight into how each is feeling.

I am not sure what to write about this book. I didn’t really enjoy it but wanted to keep reading. There is a lot of sex in this book – Eleanor has many affairs, and is raped – but sex seems to be how she gets enjoyment and how she connects with people. Rosa has tremendous mood swings, also likes sex, has a little girl who helps her find herself and places all the blame for her struggles on Eleanor.

I’m not sure I had a favourite character. I don’t think I liked anyone in the book particularly. There were those I definitely did not like – such as Rosa’s abusive and manipulative husband, nor Aaron, Eleanor’s husband, an artist who seemed very self-involved – life had to revolve around him.

I didn’t feel there was particularly a story – just lots of memories and experiences. And I didn’t feel that anything was really resolved by the end of the book.

Overall, I wasn’t particularly happy reading this book, but was hooked anyway. I have come away unsatisfied.

5/10

Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers

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Synopsis:

Beautifully told through notes left on their kitchen fridge, this is an intimate portrait of the relationship between a hard-working mother and her teenage daughter. Stunningly sad but ultimately uplifting, it is about being a ‘good mother’ or a ‘good daughter’, and is a reminder of how much can be said in so few words, if only we made the time to say them.

What a sad, touching book, that made me cry. The story is told through notes written by both mother and daugher, Claire, in the hardest year of their life – when Claire’s Mum was diagonised with breast cancer. Both are busy so the best way to communicate is through notes left on the refrigerator door. The notes are intimate, with them considering love, life, their relationship and whether they are good people.

I read this book in one sitting. It was quick to read but engaging. And so sad. I really enjoyed this book. We see growing pains of a teenager, as she discovers boys, works hard at school and deals with divorce. Kuipers looks at breast cancer and how it effects the sufferer, and their family. It is so honest and raw. We see pain, heart break and illness. It is a good awareness for cancer. It is realistic and honest, and achingly sad.

There are unanswered questions, and I don’t think the characters could be developed properly as their form of commuication was notes but this was a lovely book and well worth reading.

8/10