x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Alone in the Classroom: Murder and love on the Canadian prairies

Elizabeth Hay keeps the surprises coming in this mystery set in a small town in the 1920s.

Alone in the Classroom
Elizabeth Hay
MacLehose Press

Part murder mystery, part love story, this book powerfully evokes the stifling atmosphere of a small town in the Canadian prairies in the 1920s and the strict moral code observed there – or is it? The plot swirls between generations as Connie, a young teacher, tries to teach a probably dyslexic boy to read. Connie is just 19, barely older than her pupils. She has to teach them basic French even though she barely knows a word of the language herself. She finds herself increasingly drawn to the boy, Michael.

Connie's niece later tries to piece together what happened to her aunt and is shocked by what she finds. The brooding presence of the small school's head teacher, Parley Burns, lingers round her aunt's tale like a bad smell. And just who did kill those two young girls in the Saskatchewan town that, at the time of telling, has now been abandoned and allowed to go back to nature? Hay weaves her web with terse prose and, like any good mystery, keeps the surprises coming.