Long listed for Orange Prize 2010, Short listed for Guardian First book Award, Winner of the Betty Trask Award
I had heard The Rehearsal mentioned a few times in 2009, but when it was included on the Orange long list this year everyone started talking about it. The Rehearsal seems to divide opinion, with a roughly equal split between those who love the book and those who hate it. I must admit that the premise didn’t appeal to me, but I don’t like being unable to join a heated book discussion and so I reserved a copy from my library.
The book centres on a sex scandal involving a teacher and his pupil. The narrative travels forwards and backwards in time, following a group of pupils who gossip about the event and members of a drama school who decide to put on a play about the sex scandal.
The book is quite confusing to read, as you are never really sure which scenes are part of the play and which are ‘real’. I’d read about 50 pages of the book when I re-read Claire’s review in which she pointed out that chapters starting with a day of the week were about the school pupils and ones titled with a month were set in the drama school, but although this information helped a lot I was still confused about many things.
The book realistically portrays teenagers, managing to capture that uncertainty and awkwardness. I was particularly impressed by the insecurites of a younger sibling:
The teenage banter was witty and insightful, but the plot was almost non-existent. I was particularly disappointed by the ending, as the book just stopped without reaching any real conclusion.
I am still trying to decide if I liked The Rehearsal or not. I can’t work out whether this book is genius, or just trying too hard to be clever. If The Rehearsal had been written in chronological order I suspect it might have been a fairly average read. Does confusing your readers make a book incredibly good, or does it just hide any flaws in a cloak of confusion? Despite my uncertainty The Rehearsal is the most impressive book I’ve found on the Orange long list so far and I’d be happy to see it win.
Overall I enjoyed reading this book for the individual passages, but it was too clever to work as a novel for me.
Did you enjoy The Rehearsal?
Can a book be too clever?