The Last Day of Term by Francis Gilbert
|The Last Day of Term by Francis Gilbert|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: Massively entertaining school story is somewhat implausible but completely enthralling.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: July 2011|
|Publisher: Short Books|
|External links: Author's website|
It's the last day of term at the Gilda Ball Academy, and English teacher Martin can't wait for the holiday to start. Shaken by the death of his friend Jack in a riot at the school, he's failed to notice his marriage falling to pieces and his relationship with his son deteriorating. Just when he thinks things can't get any worse, an anonymous pupil accuses him of inappropriate sexual conduct.
Béla is Martin's son Josh's best friend. Despite this, Martin is convinced that Béla is the pupil who's made the allegation. He thinks the young Hungarian boy still blames him for his exclusion. Béla, though, knows he's innocent, and is desperate to help Martin catch the real perpetrator in the hope he'll be rewarded with a return to school. Over the course of one day, the paths of the pair will continually cross.
There are so many twists and turns here that I'll avoid attempting to say too much about the plot, other that to state that it's rather over the top but incredibly entertaining. Gilbert, an experienced teacher, has such a great grasp of school life that it's easy to look past the implausible parts and enjoy this as a contemporary melodrama – a cross between the TV shows Waterloo Road and 24. The dual narrative, continually switching between Martin and Béla, worked fantastically well, with both characters standing out as excellent, while the constant showing of the time as the day went by really added to the tension.
I also thought Gilbert's dialogue was fantastic – another thing which was clearly helped by his time as a teacher. He knows exactly how teenagers and their teachers talk, and captured it perfectly here. It's a book with timely things to say about cyberbullying, false accusations, and the way schools are run today, and the sensational bits shouldn't detract from the interesting points Gilbert raises in this novel.
I've been a fan of the author since reading his first non-fiction book, I'm a Teacher, Get Me Out of Here, but this has surpassed my expectations. I look forward to reading more fiction by Mr Gilbert!
For another decidedly adult school story, check out Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Day of Term by Francis Gilbert at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Day of Term by Francis Gilbert at Amazon.com.
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