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Book DetailsISBN: 9781760875299
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Book Review: The Good Teacher by Petronella McGovern - Reviewed by Sarah (03 Sep 2020)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Petronella McGovern's latest offering (published 1 September 2020), The Good Teacher. This was an engrossing read with great character development and plenty of surprises. 49-year-old Allison Walsh is a dedicated and much-loved kindergarten teacher and a respected member of her community of Wirriga, in Sydney's northern beaches. Until recently, she'd also considered herself to be happily married to solicitor Tony, with whom she's approaching her silver (25th) anniversary, and attentive mum to teenager Felix. That was until Tony announced on New Year's Eve that he'd met someone else and wanted to leave their marriage. Since he's moved in with his new girlfriend, about whose identity he's curiously secretive, Felix has been unwilling to spend much time at home with Allison, preferring to live with his father, who's now within walking distance of the local surf beach. This has left Allison feeling understandably shell-shocked and isolated, as her comfortable life has been completely turned upside down. She's started covertly watching Tony's new home from her car, hoping to catch a glimpse of his new partner, but also risking falling foul of NSW's anti-stalking laws. When a new student starts in Allison's kindergarten class, she finds an opportunity to distract herself from her own problems by becoming involved in theirs. Luke Branson is recently widowed and his four-year-old daughter Gracie is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for a rare form of cancer. Within weeks, Allison has invited them to move into her family home -thereby temporarily thwarting Tony's efforts to force her to sell - and is spearheading a local fundraising campaign to raise the funds needed to enable Gracie to undergo experimental immunotherapy treatment in the USA - treatment that could be her last hope to survive her illness. It's difficult to further describe the plot without verging into spoiler territory, but this book fits well into the suspense-thriller genre. The story unfolds from three main perspectives - Allison's, Luke's and that of Maz (Marilyn), a effervescent young instructor at the Wirriga gym where Luke's been offered casual employment. Occasional chapters are also told from the perspectives of Allison's estranged husband, Tony, and her son, Felix. The themes that emerge are of kindness, community, family, friendship, trust and betrayal. The characters who make up the cast of the book and their interrelationships are sensitively and enthrallingly developed. As a female reader in her 40's, I predictably identified most with the character of Allison and felt her desolation and sense of dislocation at the unexpected end of her marriage were handled masterfully by the author. Maz at first appears a somewhat ditsy and self-centred young woman in the well-worn millenial mould. However, in McGovern's hands, she is developed into a sympathetic and multi-dimensional character who is faced with some pretty tough life lessons over the course of the book. The Good Teacher is a strong character-driven drama with a complex and intriguing plot and plenty of surprises for the reader. It's a cautionary tale for the modern age, which leaves an enduring message of the power and importance of kindness and human relationships. Very highly recommended for readers who enjoy contemporary suspense and thriller literature, and also afficionados of quality women's literature in the vein of Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies and The Husband's Secret - Moriarty's readers will find the Northern Beaches setting of The Good Teacher familiar. My thanks to the author and publisher, Allen & Unwin Australia, for the opportunity to read and review an uncorrected proof of this title in the lead-up to its publication.
Book Review: The Good Teacher by Petronella McGovern - Reviewed by CloggieA (25 Aug 2020)
5 stars The Good Teacher is the second novel by Australian author, Petronella McGovern. Allison Walsh loves her job at Wirriga Public School in Sydney’s Northern Beaches but, since the New Year, is distracted by the upheaval in her personal life. Her husband’s abrupt departure with their teenaged son, Felix in tow, to another woman’s arms, has turned her into a stalker, trying to find out just who her rival is. She’s clearly in denial about the end of her marriage.
Recently-widowed during the Victorian bushfires, Luke Branson and his four-year-old daughter, Gracie are new to Wirriga. They have come under tragic circumstances: Gracie needs specialist treatment for a rare cancer. Gracie is in Mrs Walsh’s class, and the teacher has promised to give the little girl the best of care. Luke still has to find a satisfactory place for them to live: the holiday flat is quite the wrong environment for a susceptible little girl.
Maz is a fitness instructor at Wirriga Wellness Centre, and happily welcomes Luke to the team. She’s ambitious, with grand plans for her own health and fitness regime that will be augmented by a range of supplements her friend in Thailand sends over. She’s savvy about websites and self-promotion, but perhaps less knowledgeable about the products she’s touting.
Felix Walsh is a fairly typical seventeen-year-old boy: obsessed with football and surfing, bored with school, and just discovering girls. He’s caught in the conflict between his estranged parents and not liking it one bit.
Allison quickly finds herself invested in Gracie’s future, and decides that inviting Luke and Gracie to share her house will kill three birds with one stone: it will prevent Tony from selling the house out from under her; it will stop her feeling alone and afraid; and it will provide a clean, safe and loving environment for Gracie and Luke. The Walshes have always been generous hosts, but is Allison overstepping?
When the possibility of a radical new, potentially life-saving, therapy for Gracie emerges, Allison throws herself wholeheartedly into a fundraising campaign to ensure Luke and Gracie make their deadline for the drug trial in Chicago. The whole town of Wirriga joins in to show what a community can achieve.
With a narrative from four perspectives, McGovern’s second novel is definitely starts at a slow burn, but the reader’s patience is amply rewarded with a cleverly plotted tale, one that initially keeps the reader guessing, and later, enthralled, as the story races to an exciting climax.
McGovern easily evokes her setting and her characters are very believable for all their flaws and foibles. Without including spoilers, it is safe to say that this is a cautionary tale warning us that not everything we see or read will be what it seems, nor is everyone we meet, in real life or online, quite who or what they say they are. Brilliant Australian contemporary fiction. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Allen and Unwin.
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