The Art Teacher by Paul Read
|The Art Teacher by Paul Read
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
|Summary: A fast paced thriller that grips, entertains, and twists in surprising directions that take both the characters and the reader by surprise. Both a brilliantly fun read and a dark reflection on the stories of troubled schools and gang violence that we see filling the media, The Art Teacher is a terrific, timely read.
|Date: September 2016
|Publisher: Legend Press
|External links: Author's website
Patrick Owen managed seven years at Highfields Secondary School without punching a pupil in the face. A mediocre teacher, stuck in a struggling school ruled by violent pupils, Patrick goes home every night to an empty flat, and an existence filled with reminders of his life as a faded rock star. When one pupil over steps the mark, a brief mistake plunges Patrick into a world of danger, violence, and the glare of the media.
I was filled with dreams of being a teacher back when I was a teenager. A few weeks of work experience in a school put me right off - I just don't have the patience to be able to control a class of 30 rowdy children. Teachers get fairly badly represented in the press nowadays, seen as people who work 9 to half 4 and still get a huge amount of holidays a year. But, in truth, all of the teachers I know work late most nights, and spend their holidays paying huge amounts of money to go to destinations filled with the very children that they're trying to avoid. And of course, all of us have had our lives shaped by our teachers - mine so much so that I named my cat after a particularly inspirational one of mine...
Author Patrick Read worked as a teacher for a period - although he's quick to point out that his time was spent at an incredibly pleasant school with lovely colleagues, far removed from the hellish world that he's created in his book. His experience as a teacher clearly shows though - and whilst Patrick Owen is not a particularly brilliant teacher, his daily frustrations will no doubt be familiar to a range of teachers the nation over. The hellish school life leads into a murky corner of London filled with gangs, rotten council estates and desperate parents - and whilst it's not personally familiar to me, it brings to life in vivid yet murky detail a corner of London that I've gone past many times, either walking at top speed or hoping my bus won't break down.
The real grip of this book comes from the fact that Patrick Owen is never truly at ease. Whether struggling with pupils in the classroom, trying to avoid them in the streets, or dealing with what remains of his marriage at home, Owen is faced with constant difficult decisions. What makes the book a great read is the fact that, like many of us, he deals with them, but often very badly indeed. It's these decisions that continue to spiral him headfirst into a rotten wonderland filled with violence and danger.
The gang are represented fairly - whilst we never get a chance to know them well due to being in Owen's mind throughout, they never become stereotyped as is often the case when the subject of gangs crops up. They're both street smart gang members, and yet also scared children - which somehow makes them even more terrifying.
A thriller with a compelling plot and several genuine gasp out loud moments, The Art Teacher is an incredibly good debut - I'm sure it'll do hugely well, even if it may put a few off choosing teaching as a career! Give it a read, and I'm sure, like me, that you'll be keen to read the author's forthcoming second novel. Many thanks to the publisher for sending this cracking read my way.
And for further reading? I struggled to find one to suggest here - but plumped for Fox by Anthony Gardner. As per The Art Teacher it's a thriller with a racing plot that finds time to draw interesting references regarding the state of our nation and our media. For more about teachers, we can recommend Learnt by Edward M Baldwin.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Art Teacher by Paul Read at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Art Teacher by Paul Read at Amazon.com.
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