This is a gripping novel rich with provocative dialogue. Catton plays with dichotomies and desires and presents them to us in the guise of a story about adolescent girls. Certainly the girls play a major role, but they are compared and contrasted with their male counterparts, as well as the adults in their lives.
What happens when an underage girl is seduced by a male teacher, but is also a seducer?
What happens when a lonely music teacher finds her own unrequited and forbidden love story being played out before her eyes by two of her students?
What happens when a girl dies and nobody cares?
What happens when young actors use the violation of a girl as theatrical fodder?
Catton has a way of overlapping these questions throughout her story. She shows us that the same doubts and longings can, and do, haunt us all. Her characters' inner dialogues often seem like things spoken out loud for all to examine. This deliberate meshing of private and public emotion creates a whirlwind that draws her readers in and doesn't let go.
A confident and bold first offering by this new author. Highly recommended.