THE TEACHER'S DAUGHTER
Richard B. Wright.
Volume 11 Number 1.
Three weeks after she is jilted by her lover (he's handsome, clever, sexy, and married), Jan Harper gets a call from a young hood she met recently at a party. He asks her out for coffee. She accepts. Why does a bright, slightly jaded, thirty-six-year-old teacher accept a date with a young street punk whose one love is his muscle car? Because she's lonely.
Jan Harper has been teaching English in a Scarborough high school for the last twelve years and is still living with mother. She is neither young nor pretty. Her life is safe and dull. And James Hicks, "sender of bad poetry and red roses" seems to promise her a little excitement—and lots of good sex. But soon after she embarks on this little affair, Jan discovers the two have little in common. Unfortunately, the teacher's daughter has considerable difficulty extricating herself from the relationship. Hicks is persistent; soon he becomes abusive.
Wright knows his characters and knows how to make them believable. He knows modern suburbia, with its backyard barbecues, its bars and hamburger joints, its local high school. And he knows how and when to pick up the story's tempo. All the ingredients of a successful novel are here, but Wright's novel fails.
Striving for the kind of immediacy that can only be achieved (he thinks) with present tense, Wright overreaches himself. Most of the novel is written in present tense—in an uncomfortably intrusive present tense. There is much too much of it. It jars. And it is especially jarring when his characters think in words and syntactical constructions they just would not use:
Driving down Crown Hall Road he is
Now, a guy who drives a car with a spread eagle on the hood and velour dice dangling from the rearview mirror does not say or think words like "however," and "thus," and "agitated." And even Jan Harper could tell her creator that exclamation marks can make writing sound shrill and hysterical. How do such obvious stylistic flaws get past an editor?
I expect Wright's earlier novels-especially The Weekend Man and Final Things*—will prove more popular than The Teacher's Daughter.
*Reviewed vol. IX/2 1981 p.96. 18
Boh Kinczyk, Central Elgin C. I., St. Thomas, ON.
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