Where The Truth Lies by Rosemary Ingham

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Where The Truth Lies by Rosemary Ingham

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Rosemary Ingham's debut novel looks at the relationship betweeen teachers and the students they teach and when this relationship goes beyond pastoral care and becomes an abuse of trust. The plot is excellent but the book is a little let down by the characterisation.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 267 Date: March 2007
Publisher: Macmillan New Writing
ISBN: 978-0230019621

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In 1981 Isabel Lincoln took over as headteacher of Thomas Paine High School after the death of Will Fullwood, the school's visionary founder. Max Truman is her Deputy and he probably had every right to expect that the governors would appoint him as Head. He's adamant that he bears no grudge and supports Isabel. Her Second Deputy is Jack Redfern and it's not long before the strong physical attraction between Isabel and Jack leads to a passionate love affair.

Thomas Paine High is very forward-looking. Students and teachers are regarded as equals and even the headteacher is called by her first name. The only rule is that there are no rules and there's no school uniform. Students learn because they feel that they are on the same side as their teachers, working to achieve a common end. The school governors aren't happy with this ethos and would like to see a return to what they regard as the norm - formality between teachers and students, a strong framework of rules and school uniform.

Rosemary Ingham was a teacher and a passionate advocate of comprehensive education, partly because of her experience in grammar schools. Where the Truth Lies is written with the benefit of her experience as Head of a comprehensive school. She captures perfectly the juggling act every Head must perform of working with the Governors, the Education Committee, the unions and the staff whilst still delivering education to children who are at a very vulnerable stage in their lives.

At first sight the governors' attitudes to the way the school is run and their wish for formality, rules and uniform seems old-fashioned and reactionary. But in such a relaxed atmosphere it's very easy for the relationship between the male teacher and a nubile girl in her mid teens to go beyond the point at which the teacher is still being professional and the governors' attitudes seem more understandable. Max Truman is charismatic and he has quite a fan club. Is he simply doing his best for those girls for whom he has pastoral care, or is he abusing his position? When a parent makes an accusation against him is he guilty or has the student been fantasising?

Rosemary Ingham has obviously drawn on her experience in a comprehensive school to give a real feel of what the life of the headteacher is like and the responsibilities which fall on her shoulders. Much of the novel is told in the first person present tense by Isabel and whilst it takes a little time to get into its stride it does convey a sense of pressure and urgency. I was fascinated by the interaction of the Head with the governors and appalled by the feeling that the two parties weren't always seen as being on the same side. I laughed at the thought of the parent governor who used the governors' meetings to air her grievances about her own child's education - but not for long.

It's a cracking good story and I read until the early hours of the morning to find out what happened, but I was disappointed with the characters. It was quite a while before I could distinguish between Max and Jack: I only managed it when I made up my mind that Max was going to be a problem and that Jack had all the personality of dishwater. Isabel herself seemed to have the insecurities of a newly-qualified teacher and was far too worried about her clothes. I had no sense of there being any chemistry between Isabel and Jack - and the sex was on the silken thighs level. It's probably not surprising that the students were the ones who came over as individuals with personalities of their own.

The book's worth reading. It made me think about the teacher/student relationship and not just in terms of the male teacher and female student. It is easier to learn in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and without the sort of rules which seem to be there to trip people up. I thought too about strong sexual attractions which people 'can't resist', but I must admit that I came to the conclusion that self-control isn't a bad thing.

If this book appeals to you then you might also enjoy Asboville by Danny Rhodes which looks at the way that young adults are treated when they get into trouble.

My thanks to the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.

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Buy Where The Truth Lies by Rosemary Ingham at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Where The Truth Lies by Rosemary Ingham at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Where The Truth Lies by Rosemary Ingham at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Where The Truth Lies by Rosemary Ingham at Amazon.com.


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Magda said:

Ah, yes. I think the idea of an irresistible sexual passion is just One Big Fat Indulgent Lie, honestly. Even when drunk. And I am speaking from a triple experience of a resister, a resisted and an unresisted.