June 19th 2001 by Doubleday
Schooling is a portrait of an adolescent girl, thirteen-year-old Catrine Evans, who following her mother’s death is uprooted from her home in America to an English boarding school. There she encounters classmates who sniff glue and engage in arson and instructors who make merciless fun of her accent. She also finds the sympathetic chemistry teacher Mr. Gilbert, who offers Catrine the friendship she so desperately wants–a friendship that gradually takes on sinister and obsessive overtones.
I applaud Heather McGowan’s debut effort Schooling. Most impressed with McGowan’s use of stream of consciousness style which adds texture and depth to both narrative and characters.
Schooling is a sophisticated and involved coming of age story of 14 year old Catrine. Catrine is a young girl facing many issues at once. Banished to boarding school, ignored by her father. Young Catrine craves love and attention and gains the attention of her chemistry teacher Mr Gilbert. What begins as an innocent relationship soon turns in to much more with a somewhat shocking ending.
Catrine did not appeal to me at all in the beginning. However, I found myself lost in her thoughts, thanks to McGowan’s style. I began to understand her and she subsequently grew on me. Initially she comes across as opportunistic almost calculating, sneaky but really she’s a tortured soul, suffering from so much upheaval in her life and most of all a ‘secret’ gnawing away at her. She’s complex but what 14 year old isn’t. Her issues add to the storyline and her cat-and-mouse attraction to Mr Gilbert makes for interesting sexual tension. Catrine and Mr Gilbert have a very interesting dynamic which leaves the reader guessing at what will transpire next.
McGowan’s style might not appeal to all but it really does add to this narrative. Looking forward to reading more from this bold and innovative author. Surprising this was her first novel, very seasoned writing for a green author.