Top critical review
Nice school, lousy Acting Principal, lots of small town dramas.
Reviewed in Australia on 18 September 2017
“I’m sure the system has worked well enough in the past, but I think you’ll find that we’ll be in a better position to meet our strategic direction and student outcomes with the proposed configuration.”
Asleep yet? Eyes glazing over? Mr P’s reaction is a bit different. “He’ll explode if he hears another word of bloody management-speak rubbish. His neck has tightened up—he can feel it—and his hands are clenched into hard little balls.”
Everybody’s favourite principal is on leave and the new broom that is the Acting Principal is sweeping through and cleaning out all the inefficiencies. And she’s laying down the law. Laws. She’s full of them. Don’t touch a child, don’t visit families outside of school, don’t this, don’t that. Plus, she’s shifted teachers to different classrooms and not the ones they’ve had for years. We don’t like her. We like Mr P (Terry) and his friends.
And there’s my problem. There are so many similar names for the staff and friends that I had trouble remembering a character’s back story when their name came up as a chapter heading. There were two husbands who worked late; there were a couple of girls who needed extra help, there was another whose figure was developing.
Some of the women are Michelle, Melinda, Belinda, Tania, Miranda, Nina. There’s one whose speech is a little rougher which makes her more distinctive, otherwise, the similarity in names and speaking styles made it hard for me to distinguish them.
There are side stories everywhere because anything revolving around a primary school necessarily has a lot of people from many walks of life. It’s a small coastal community where people know each other’s secrets. Except for this one. But the new broom of a Principal finds it and sweeps it out of the shadows and confronts the guilty party.
We don’t know what the issue is until near the end, just that there was one, and it’s changed things at the school. Meanwhile, there’s also a cheating spouse, a slightly simple girl being raised by her grandmother, a shy older woman who imagines her mother telling her what to do, the school GA (General Assistant – which is usually a combination gardener and handyperson), and even an asylum seeker later on.
All of the school scenes ring very true for the NSW (Australia) schools I’ve been associated with. I don't think we're told exactly where this takes place, but it seems like a NSW coastal village. I can see the demountables, the covered verandahs, the rugs on the floor for storytime. And I’m familiar with the mad dash in the morning to get kids out the door on time. A handy tip I didn’t know, but could probably have used was this one:
“Because gym gear solves everything. Running late dropping the kids to school? No problem, so long as you’ve managed to swap your PJs for a pair of leggings and some sort of zip-up sports top. That way everyone thinks you’re only late because you managed to fit in a run before breakfast. Why spoil a good story by admitting you just slept in again?”
I’d have preferred fewer side stories with loose ends and more depth to the ones I liked. There are a couple of characters I'd have liked to know better.
Thanks to NetGalley and Legend Press for the copy for review from which I’ve quoted.