Review published on March 8, 2018.
Terry Pritchard is an old-time teacher in a small school somewhere in Australia. He really looks forward to teaching every day and takes special interest in his weaker, more vulnerable pupils to help them keep up and maybe excel with their own talents. He knows the family background of all his pupils who live locally.
When the new acting principal (a position which Terry had declined) Laurie Mathews arrives, she makes lots of changes, for example, allocating different classrooms to teachers, banning casual school uniform and joyful singing at assembly, as well as very strict monitoring of behaviour between teachers and children.
Terry and Laurie do not see eye-to-eye and when, on investigation, she finds an old record of inappropriate behaviour against Terry, she asks him to retire/leave. Such a shock to Terry, the other teachers, his wife Michelle, and all the children who adored his easy-going encouraging manner.
Is Terry as he appears – a caring teacher – or is he a paedophile to be feared? We only learn the truth in the last few pages of the book.
I did feel the author had introduced us to too many characters – at one stage, I counted over 20 as well as the main people, and I had to keep a note of these as each chapter gave a different person’s point of view.
Lots more issues were brought up – racism, rape, child neglect and abandonment, fertility issues, family infidelity and child ‘sharing’ between warring parents, loneliness in later years as well as the joys of children learning and having fun in school.
While I enjoyed the book, I did feel too much was going on and this took away from the main theme – a very important topical issue.
Regarding discussion by a book group, it could be hard to stop personal memories of “When I was in school, I remember a teacher who always stood too close …..”, and keep the discussion general.
Deirdre Spendlove 3/3
The Teacher’s Secret by Suzanne Leal
Legend Press 9781785079092 pbk Mar 2018
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