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The English Teacher

3.44  ·  Rating Details ·  1,103 Ratings  ·  162 Reviews
Fifteen years ago, Vida Avery arrived alone and pregnant at Fayer Academy. By living on campus, on an island off the New England coast, Vida has cocooned herself and her now teenage son, Peter, from the outside world and from an inside secret. This is a tale of a mother and son's vital bond.
ebook, 256 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Grove Press (first published 2005)
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Cathrine ☯
I enjoyed this one. A mother and her teenage son attempt living a blended family life with her new husband and his children. But Vida has been keeping a closely guarded secret and suffering from PTSD as a result. Her fragile grasp on living a normal life is unraveling and her control about to snap. Kept my interest as told from both her and son Peter’s POVs. An engaging, quick read. Any fan of Tess of the D’Urbervilles will appreciate the references and parallels with the two story lines.

Although this novel was published only ten years ago, it feels like something from much earlier decade. And it's not that it's set in 1979-1980, opening the day fifty-two Americans were taken hostage at the American Embassy in Teheran, Iran. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I don't read many stories like this, written quite this way, anymore. Perhaps Robin Black's 2014 Life Drawing or Ian McEwan's most recent The Children Act—are similar. Each a deep but brief character study, an expositio ...more
Ron Charles
Dec 10, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a former English teacher, picking up a novel called The English Teacher required a leap of faith. There's the risk of running into that egomaniac so widely adored in stories about English teachers, a subgenre that reached its low point with Robin Williams's mawkish performance in "Dead Poets Society." Michelle Pfeiffer was hotter in "Dangerous Minds," but she followed essentially the same lesson plan, with the same test results: one student dead and a nation inspired.

For the millions of resp
May 14, 2010 Cindy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I didn't really like this book.

Even though at the end of the book we learn more about Vida's tragedy, I still had a hard time feeling empathy for her. I wanted to shake her and tell her to stop drinking and stop feeling sorry for herself. Who accepts a marriage proposal on the spur of the moment? Why would you do that without seeming to take into account how that may impact your son? Ugh. Give up the bottle and wake up, woman.
Sep 09, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Lily King. I am so sorry that there is only one more book by her to read. This novel is a portrait of a traumatized woman, and English teacher and mother, who impulsively reframes her life and can't recognize her own self in it. What I like about King's novels is that things happen in them; this is not a novel about ennui but about pain and love and fear. And Tess of the d'Urbervilles. I don't know that this is a book for teenagers. But this is one of my favorite books ever.
Irene Alonso
This was a quick read but very well written. The author's writing is done with such ease and eloquence you can visualize everything to a tee. I love the references to other books and the overlapping themes of this book. The characters are well done, to the point of me disliking Vida so much it made me wanna shake her. It makes me want to read the other books to more fully understand how the compliment this one so well. I would read another one of her books.
Mar 18, 2015 Loralee rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf, 2015, boring
More than half-way through and I just have to give this up. I feel bad for Vida, I do, it can't have been easy going through what she did. But aside from a trauma which took place for her 16+ years prior (which, at over half-way through STILL hasn't been explicitly stated, just heavily alluded to), I am having a hard time connecting with her. She seems whiny and just all around awful. The son, I hate to say this, is even more annoying. There's very little conflict and it's just...boring.
Aug 13, 2014 Albert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Title - The English Teacher

Author - Lily King

Source - The Scottsdale Public Library (ebook)

Summary -

Vida Avery is very much in control of her life, as far as appearances go. Yet she is pleasantly surprised when she wakes up every morning that she hasn't killed her son in her sleep. Vida is an English Teacher in Fayer, the school built on the family ancestral grounds that had once been her grandfather's. But change was coming into Vida's life. Change that seemed welcomed by all around her, her s
Karen Chandler
Some aspects of this book are wonderful, I think. The two main characters are very interesting. First of all, there's the mother who thinks she's in control of a life that she compartmentalizes to the point of neglecting her son and her own psychological health. She's out of touch with her feelings and needs, owing to a traumatic experience that remains undisclosed until the end (except for hints). Consequently, her actions sometimes result from unconscious impulses she's clueless about. King do ...more
Apr 04, 2013 Anne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 16, 2015 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt frustrated with Vida Avery for the entire book--why didn't she get counseling after her trauma, why didn't she share what had happened with anyone close to her--but I also felt that the ending was hopeful in a way I hadn't expected it would be. Unfortunately, King did the same thing in this novel that irritated me in The Pleasing Hour: adding in unneeded perspectives toward the end of the book that only disrupted the chapter-by-chapter shifts that she had established throughout the rest o ...more
Mary K Miles
Jan 29, 2016 Mary K Miles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was told that this book was excellent and it is. It's very deep and serious but every word is perfection. Great story with a beautiful ending.
Aug 10, 2015 Alicia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Haunting and beautifully written!
Dana Brown
Mar 13, 2015 Dana Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a fan. Her characters are so believable and I learn from them. Beautiful book.
Scottsdale Public Library
I just finished "The English Teacher" by Lily King. Sometimes when you read a book you say that it would be a great picture. However, in this case, this would make for a great play. Vida Avery is an English teacher and she has a son, Peter. She meets Tom Belou, a recent widower.
He proposes, and they get married. He has three children. There are many interactions between motherhood: a new marriage, a blended family. The focus is on Vida, and her son Peter. The story is very well told. You also l
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shane Malcolm
Sep 11, 2016 Shane Malcolm rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I liked this book, although I did not love it as much as Father of the Rain, which I read a couple of months ago. Lily King is a great writer. Her characters feel real, if sometimes a bit larger than life; her plots, such as they are (these are character-driven novels) are solid; and she renders emotions vividly, one of the chief things I look for in an author. Something about The English Teacher seemed a bit off, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Lately, I am finding that I want certain no ...more
Jun 17, 2015 Roberta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, americana
Vida Avery lavora come insegnante di inglese (letteratura) in una scuola preparatoria del New England, la Fayer Academy. Arrivata qui quindici anni prima, dal Texas, incinta e sola, una donna dal passato misterioso, Vida ha poi sempre vissuto nel campus insieme al figlio Peter.

Nell'ottobre del 1979 diverse persone vengono prese come ostaggi da militanti iraniani nell'ambasciata statunitense di Teheran. Sullo sfondo di questo avvenimento politico, e del corso su Tess dei d'Ubervilles di Hardy -
Feb 23, 2013 Danielle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
King's The Father of the Rain was one of the most powerful books I've read. The characters and plot were so beautifully written and it was very emotionally charged and moving. I really enjoyed her literary writing style and references and character-driven plots. So, very excited about reading this book.

The opening chapter was wonderful. Rich descriptions of the setting and characters and an interesting plot setup. Vida, an English teacher, and single mother of a teenage son (Peter) is involved
Jun 12, 2016 Carla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cinthia Ritchie
Aug 16, 2016 Cinthia Ritchie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a beautifully written book!
King's prose shines in this bewildering story of the love and anguish between a mother and son.
Vida, who teaches high school English, is harboring a terrible secret, and one she's kept inside for years. After she marries Tom Belou, the local tailor (do they still have tailors nowadays?) and moves into his house with her teenage son, Peter, everything begins to unravel.
The story is intriguing, engaging and expertly paced, yet it is King's voice that carries the
May 25, 2013 Cball rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction, 2013
Should it really matter that I hated the cover, because I did. What is this, an erotic novel by Lily King? um, heck no. But the cover...I'm letting it go.

This is a good read. If you are/were an English Lit major than you will love this novel. King brilliantly weaves 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles' of which I'm eternally grateful for--I read the book as an adult and I felt like I finally got all the hidden meanings. If you haven't read "Tess" then you might not fully appreciate this story.

I really li
Nov 07, 2015 Annette rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-to-miss
I wish (as a former English teacher myself) I could have fallen in love with this book but I didn't.
Instead of grabbing me at the outset, I found the writing much like an unimpressive Hollywood chic flick, predictable and uninspired.

While the write up made this work sound intriguing, that was a problem. The meal didn't live up to the appetizer. Publisher's Weekly was a bit self-congratulatory. Had the themes mentioned really been deeply delved into, this would have made for a good read.

And ch
Robert Blumenthal
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Euphoria, I have decided to read the earlier novels of Lily King. I found The English Patient to be a very different but still superb read by her. It takes place at a New England prep school, where the lead character is about to be married for the first time even though she has a 15-year-old son. There is great mystery as to who the father is, with her not willing to talk about him at all. The novel is about events of the past preventing one from fully function ...more
Jan 29, 2011 Alesa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I didn't like this book at first, because the viewpoint characters were really negative. And I'd pretty much decided to put it down. Then something clicked, and I spent all day today reading it to the end.

The main character is seriously messed up, making her a very unreliable narrator. But the descriptions are good, and the plot works okay. The plot revolves around an English teacher at a snooty New England private school, and the 15 year old son she has raised as a single mother. She deci
Breauna Schroeder
When I first began this book I was really enjoying it, but it quickly became clear that Vida was going to spend the book being negative, bitchy, all around pretty pathetic, and being a complete pitiful parent to not only her son, Peter, but her new step-children as well. I have spent enough time around parents who don't like their children to pick up pretty quickly that she really couldn't stand Peter. She just couldn't let him go either, which considering her dark secret I get.

The problem is t
Mar 13, 2008 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I liked this book but I wasn't overly awed by it. It took me a little too long to get attached to the main character, to really care about what she was going through and feel any sort of emotion for her. Once I did the book got a lot better though.

Anyway, the main character is an English teacher, has been for years and years, who has always lived alone with her high-school age son. She accepts a very sudden marriage proposal and as you can imagine her life, and her son's life, changes quite a bi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 23, 2016 Gina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Viva is a single mother and very successful English teacher at a private school on the East Coast of the US. Who the father of her son Peter is, is unclear. Viva could be divorced, widowed or simply never married. When she is in her early 40s she marries Tom a widower with three children. But the marriage never gets going and Viva begins to unravel. We follow a penetrating and psychologically insightful portrait of a woman highly successful on the outside but emotionally frozen within. She fall ...more
Jun 26, 2016 Deb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like flawed and complex female protagonists, so I liked this book. Vida is an English teacher in a private school and the single mother of a troubled son, Peter. She impulsively marries Tom, a kind widower with three children. Between memories of trauma in her past, and the difficulty in adjusting to the newly blended family, she takes to drinking.

I can predict that some readers will be very frustrated with Vida through much of the book, but I think that's part of the point. People who have be
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Lily King grew up in Massachusetts and received her B.A. in English Literature from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. She has taught English and Creative Writing at several universities and high schools in this country and abroad. Lily's new novel, Euphoria, was released in June 2014. It has drawn significant acclaim so far, bei ...more
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