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BookBrowse Reviews The English Teacher by Lily King

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The English Teacher

by Lily King

The English Teacher by Lily King X
The English Teacher by Lily King
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2005, 256 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2006, 256 pages

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King writes with subtle clarity. Novel

From the book jacket: Fifteen years ago Vida Avery arrived alone and pregnant at elite Fayer Academy. She has since become a fixture and one of the best English teachers Fayer has ever had. By living on campus, on an island off the New England coast, Vida has cocooned herself and her son, Peter, from the outside world and from an inside secret. For years she has lived largely through the books she teaches, but when she accepts the impulsive marriage proposal of ardent widower Tom Belou, the prescribed life Vida has constructed is swiftly dismantled.

Peter, however, welcomes the changes. Excited to move off campus, eager to have siblings at last, Peter anticipates a regular life with a "normal" family. But the Belou children are still grieving, and the memory of their recently dead mother exerts a powerful hold on the house. As Vida begins teaching her signature book, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, a nineteenth-century tale of an ostracized woman and social injustice, its themes begin to echo eerily in her own life and Peter sees that the mother he perceived as indomitable is collapsing and it is up to him to help.

Comment: This is Lily King's second book following The Pleasing Hour (1999), which was described by the New York Times Book Review as "splendid...powerful....[and] so assured it's hard to believe the book itself is her debut". As Publishers Review says in their starred review of The English Teacher, 'A marriage of single parents is more often the stuff of sitcoms than of serious novels, but King uses it to great effect in this intense character study.' Other reviewers wax lyrical about her 'poetic yet streamlined prose', her 'pinpoint perception of her characters' inner lives' and 'subtle clarity'. Only Kirkus Reviews is guarded with its praise saying, 'Tom is too good to be true, and Vida too unpleasant to care about. Still, King beautifully delineates the grieving children in all their confused steps toward recovery.'

This review first ran in the September 14, 2005 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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