Higher Ed by Tessa McWatt

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Higher Ed by Tessa McWatt

Buy Higher Ed by Tessa McWatt at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: An interesting approach, this book didn't grab me and keep my attention but certainly had some interesting moments.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: August 2015
Publisher: Scribe Publications
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1925228045

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Robin works at a university. Olivia is one of his students. Francine works behind the scenes in admin. Katrin is a waitress in a local café, and Ed has a role in a rather unique bit of local government. This bizarre cast of characters is the stars of Higher Ed, a story which eventually combines all of their lives, and they are assisted by an admirable list of supporting players, too extensive to list here.

The backdrop is a low-end university, probably a former polytechnic, that is having a bit of a cash crisis. The sort where staff reapply for their jobs and students start to notice that they are somewhat distracted. Each of our stars has issues to address, and this book essentially rotates through these, with characters that start off quite separate but soon become linked to each other, whether they realise it or not.

This is an interesting book in style, language and substance, but I thought it was a little too kooky for my tastes. I felt the short chapters never really gave the characters much chance to develop, as it was time for a scene change and someone else's turn to narrate before they realised it, and some of the character traits such as eating disorders were thrown in almost haphazardly without much rhyme or reason. Ed, in particular, is an odd fellow and I don't think he added as much to the story as Robin and Katrin, despite being given equal billing.

I also felt the author was trying to be too diverse and pulling in too many cultures into one story, not because London isn't a melting pot of diversity, but because the stories almost got diluted because as soon as we'd discussed Francine's background, we were yanked off to Poland to hear about Katrin's. If there had been a unifying culture to knit them together it might have worked better for me, but instead, it read almost like a statement of facts without any coordination.

This is not a cheerful book. Traffic accidents, employment instability, unrequited love, immigration issues, the sad untold stories of the deceased. This book left me down more than it lifted me up, and I wasn't prepared for that from the jaunty cover and the preconceptions I had in my head about life working in education.

In many ways, I saw this book as a work of art. I can appreciate it, marvel at the insight and imagination that has gone into creating it, but I ultimately just wanted a book to read, a story to sink my teeth into, characters to care about, and I didn't really get any of those things here. I suppose it depends on what you are looking for. If you like different, kooky books where the style is as important as the content, it is definitely worth a look because it's unlike any other book I've read this year. But I would hesitate to recommend it as a beach read, for example, because I didn't find it engaging in that way. The writing is poetic but it's not the sort to grab and keep your attention.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending us a copy to review.

First Novel by Nicholas Royle gives another inside look at the world of education. You might also enjoy Escape Attempt by Miguel Angel Hernandez and Rhett McNeil (translator) or Heft by Liz Moore.

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Buy Higher Ed by Tessa McWatt at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Higher Ed by Tessa McWatt at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Higher Ed by Tessa McWatt at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Higher Ed by Tessa McWatt at Amazon.com.


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