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The Rehearsal

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  4,899 ratings  ·  695 reviews
All the world's a stage - and nowhere is it that more true than at an all-girls high school, particularly one where a scandal has just erupted. When news spreads of a high school teacher's relationship with his underage student, participants and observers alike soon take part in an elaborate show of concern and dismay. But beneath the surface of the teenage girls' display, ...more
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published May 17th 2010 by Reagan Arthur Books (first published April 1st 2008)
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Will The way I understand it boils down to this: Everything having to do with the plot is delivered to us by unreliable points of view. Even though it's te…moreThe way I understand it boils down to this: Everything having to do with the plot is delivered to us by unreliable points of view. Even though it's technically an omniscient narrator, it's filtered through characters who are either making things up (like the saxophone teacher) or not giving us an objective look at what's happening. The girls at the school don't really hear what happened between Victoria and Mr. Saladin; what they hear is gossip. We, as readers, are in the same boat, and not just with the story of Victoria and Mr. Saladin, but also with every other character and story line.

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Colin Bruce Anthes
Aug 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I enjoy rating and seeing ratings on Goodreads immensely, however I can't help but notice certain patterns in the ratings of books which you, no doubt, have also noticed. Classics and non-genre-protected contemporary novels can either be skyrocketed by a large fan base, or pulled down by instant 1 and 2 star ratings by people who don't find a book to be in keeping with their ideas of what literature should be. I would love to see more raters giving good books 3 or 4 stars even if it wasn't their ...more
Justin Evans
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Eleanor Catton is a witch. I say this out of great respect, as I was taught to do by my Fake Auntie Barbara, who is also a witch. I know that Catton is a witch because:

i) I do not care about sexuality in fiction. It's been done to death (primarily, I suspect, because it lets writers, who like to think they're pure as the driven snow, feel like victims. Most writers, of course, are wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of the rest of the human population and got that way because of a wide range of hi
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Updated review: March 2020
Such a clever story, so elegantly written. Not as powerful the second time around because so much of the joy of reading this is the surprise of your first time with it. For that I did bump it down from 5 to 4 stars. BUT still would highly recommend it to folks and am still thoroughly impressed by Catton's skill.

Original review: June 2015
Phenomenal! Not only is this an amazing book, but it's Catton's debut, written during her year of getting her the age of 22! I
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is the penultimate book I read to get through all the novels longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, and I can say for certain without reading the last one that this is my favorite. It isn't possible that I could like the other one more. I enjoyed the technique of this novel, and that it somehow didn't seem so obviously a technique as I was reading it. The story is not linear, I'm not even sure which parts were real, but I couldn't put it down. I wanted to stay up and read instead of sleep, ...more
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
That One Perfect Kiss

At the heart of this novel (written when Catton was 22) is an illicit male teacher, female pupil relationship.

We hear little from the 31 year old teacher, so we can’t determine whether he is a latter-day Humbert Humbert.

Catton is more interested in the context and the aftermath than the act itself.

Almost all of the novel is told from the perspective of secondary school girls or young women. Hence, it's primarily an exploration of female adolescence and maturity, whate
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: indirectly, the 2013 Booker longlist
[4.5] A formidably clever book with a rubbish cover. Both the jacket and the synopsis - a scandal over the relationship between a sixth former (in British parlance) and a 31 year old teacher - look like something from the younger end of a publisher's commercial women's fiction dept. But as the polarised ratings show, those looking for a straightforward beach read will be disappointed by an experimental, theory-driven novel which speaks the unspeakable. (As with Joanna Kavenna, another intelligen ...more
Paul Bryant
Feb 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels

Since this book is partly about a bunch of teenagers trying to get accepted into a top dramatic academy, I have an excuse to tell you a recent sad-but-true anecdote, which featured my daughter’s fellow-Corridor (that’s their band) named Helena. If you’ve seen the youtube videos (and they really want you to!) she’s the very tall, very thin, quite pretty and extremely blonde one. She’s a good actress (I’ve seen her in school plays) and a good singer & dancer and she’s totally in love with acting.
switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Reading this debut novel was like sitting in a black box theatre watching a play, suspended in time, and often like watching a rehearsal of the play that I am watching. As the characters move into focus, the lighting techniques add a perspective to the dialog. Just like a play's story is told through dialog; lighting; and movement (called blocking in theater lingo), Catton's novel coheres and communicates through the visible frame of a theatre lens; the boundaries of the theatre are the boundari ...more
Aug 31, 2018 rated it liked it

This is an exceptional debut that speaks for Eleanor Catton’s talent and foreshadows her role in today’s literary scene. For her first novel, Catton proposes nothing less than to muddle the line between fiction and reality, questioning the role of art, theatre, music and, ultimately, literature itself. She does this by playing with time as the book is filled with time jumps, and by using all sorts of unreliable witnesses. The reader soon learns not to trust anyone or anything.

At the core of the
Britta Böhler
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
I can understand why people think this is an amazing book, but not quite my cup of tea, unfortunately.
Sep 06, 2010 rated it liked it
One of the most confounding books I've read in a long time. It's really well written, and filled with pages of stunning dialogue, but quite a bit of it seems to be at odds with the setting. Put another way: I find it hard to believe any of the characters in this book would say a lot of the things they say. They speak like characters, not people, and it's distracting...although apparently not distracting enough for me to put it down. ...more
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book certainly wouldn't appeal to everyone, and to be honest I'm not yet quite sure what I've just read.

But it was really fucking beautiful.
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-star-books
The Rehearsal by young New Zealand author Eleanor Catton is an astonishing debut novel that is both surprising as it is enlightening. The story is smart, playful and self-possessed with a wonderful array of character's that combined with such a arresting and seductive storyline that make it that whenever you open the book you will find it nigh on impossible to put it down.

What could of been precious at best, pretentious at worst, instead thanks to superb storytelling is shocking, funny and poign
David Hebblethwaite
Where to start with The Rehearsal, a book that fizzes over with invention and exuberance; that rummages through haystacks of artifice and returns with surprisingly many needles of truth; that demands attention from its readers, but pays it all back, many times over — that comes laden with praise, every word of it justified?

We could start with the plot, though that might be something of a red herring. There’s a scandal involving a girl at Abbey Grange school and one of the teachers there. The stu
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for my book group. Or rather I tried. I came to it having just finished "Sword of Honour" by Evelyn Waugh. The extreme contrast did not help the experience. One book, a masterpiece borne out of a global conflict, the other an unfathomable enigma borne out of a scandal in a girl's school. One felt profound and insightful, the other experimental and confusing.

My initial impression was that the book was intriguing. Here's the saxophone teacher addressing a mother: "I require of al
Will Ansbacher
The Play within the Play

The Rehearsal begins with the aftermath of a sex scandal at a girls’ school where a seventh-former, Victoria, has an affair with the music teacher. It’s all about the adolescent reactions, their confusion and hostility (directed towards Victoria rather than the teacher), the awkward counselling sessions, the mothers’ hand-wringing, and it’s done brilliantly. Later, students in a drama school nearby decide to make a play out of the incident, but it becomes severely comprom
Mark Zieg
Aug 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people open to a mind-blowing rediscovery of what is possible within the frame of a novel
Recommended to Mark by: the Amazon "books" team
This was one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a very long time. It is certainly not for everyone – the subject matter will put off some, while the innovative narrative structure may frustrate others expecting a traditionally linear story arc.

However, if you are sometimes more intrigued by the way a tale is told than the events described; if you oft find yourself lingering over a sentence of remarkable clarity and precision, wondering at the delicate interplay of consonance and connota
Jun 06, 2010 rated it did not like it
I could not finish this book. It was written in such a horribly douchebagey, pretentious, snobby way that it was literally painful to read. I don't know how anyone can actually like this. I mean, I am a fan of all things new and different, but this book is literally unreadable and does not make any sense. Seriously. ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, may-2018
The Rehearsal is the debut novel by Eleanor Catton, the author of The Luminaries, which I very much enjoyed, and which won the Man Booker Prize in 2013. Despite the praise which her second novel has had, relatively few readers in comparison seem to have come across The Rehearsal. I was so looking forward to reading Catton's debut, which was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, and was written as her MFA thesis when she was just twenty two years old. The Sunday Times recognises that Cat ...more
Mar 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
An astonishing debut book, all the more so because the author is barely out of her teens. This novel, centering on a David Lynch-like saxophone teacher, her student, and a sensitive slightly older drama student, reveals the masks we wear, the performances we inadvertently (and sometimes deliberately) give, and the ways we finesse how others perceive us. The insights are amazing; at its core, it's about identity and longing. ...more
DNF at 47%, it was my third attempt, I give up

Disclaimer: I loved the Luminaries.
This book, however, is presumably about schools, teenagers and music, while what it actually is about is the author's sharp observations about human nature. It would have been bearable, had all the characters not been speaking in the same - dull, toneless - smart-ass voice.

Frankly, it was terrible. I'm glad she's come to her senses and didn't morph into another Zadie Smith.
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-top-reads
'Which would be harder for the tutors, he wondered now, choosing between the girls or choosing between the boys? Did they have a different set of criteria for each, a different benchmark that took into consideration this fundamental difference between these unitary blunted boys and these many-headed Hydras, the girls? He realized with a kind of underwater flinch that all the girls in the room were beautiful, all of them glossy and svelte like variations on a theme. The boys, by contrast, were mo ...more
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Just because a book is imaginative and does something different doesn't mean I have to like it, and doesn't mean that I think it's well done. I don't mind time shifts, and these were fairly clearly marked, but it really threw me to never know what was real and what was made up. For example, the book started with the saxophone teacher speaking in such an absurd way to a parent, then another parent comes in: "It's the same woman as before, just with a different costume--Winter not Henderson. Some ...more
The struggle is real and I really struggled with this one. Honestly, I'm not even sure what I read. I know it's supposedly about a sexual relationship between a music teacher and one of his teenaged students at an all girls school, I guess in theory that's what it's about, but in reality, well at least in my reality, it's a hot time jumping mess.

The story starts off with a bitchy middle aged saxophone teacher telling some mother that her precious snowflake isn't ready yet to start playing the s
I am often suspicious of effusive content in the book blurb – in this case, a “starburst of talent” along with terms such as ‘astonishing’ and ‘accomplishment carried so lightly’. This is more like marketing speak to me than reviewer tone, but although these are not phrases I’d use, they are not far off the mark. Catton seems to play with and disrupt genre forms and expectations. According the part of the blurb describing the narrative – “a high school sex scandal jolts a group of teenage girls ...more
Eleanor Catton's debut novel is a marvelous book. I haven't yet read 'The Luminaries' so had no preconceptions but boy, can she write! The story is told in two parallel strands, one centering on a drama student, Stanley, attending his first year at a prestigious drama school and the second centering on a saxophone teacher and her pupils from a nearby exclusive girls school. At the start of the novel it has just been discovered that a male music teacher, Mr Saladar, has been caught having an affa ...more
Oct 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Skillful but I felt misled, as in I was not aware at the time of purchase that I was purchasing someone's experimental MFA workshop novel. It's not that the book is unenjoyable, or even that it's irredeemably gimmicky. While gimmicky, it is rather well done. But the all-the-world's-a-stage and the is-this-really-happening-or-is-this-actually-part-of-the-play-within-the-novel conceit of the book is also aggravating, not that interesting, and led me not to care that much.

Looking at other GR review
Jul 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Just finished this one, and I'm still trying to figure out what I think of it. There were points where I was really into it, and other parts where I had no idea what was going on. When I didn't know what was going on, I would get frustrated and lose interest in the book.

I actually really like the writing and the descriptions in the book. There were parts where the writing and language was really beautiful, and there were some interesting descriptions of things that I would never expect.

I was def
Erm... Not really. Ok, so Catton has really good ideas for her book and writes pretty well, in some sort of avant-garde way.

And that's fine.

But I can't imagine, for the life of me, teenage girls talking like Catton's characters. And what was that with the saxophone teacher?!

The non-linear narrative didn't make things easy, but it wasn't that much of a problem. My trouble was with connecting all the events and knowing what happens with the characters, mainly Isolde, Julia and Stanley. In the end
Nov 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book, with its shifty chronology and its disorientation and its self-consciously literary style might seem over-the-top or pretentious or off-putting, especially at the start, when you don't quite know what on earth you're reading. But Catton's writing, and the story, are engrossing enough that it worked for me. The book might be said to explain its own style, its own conception of literature as well as theater, early-ish in the book, in the following passage:
The Head of Improvisation said,
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Eleanor Catton (born 1985) is a New Zealand author. Catton was born in Canada while her father, a New Zealand graduate, was completing a doctorate at the University of Western Ontario. She lived in Yorkshire until the age of 13, before her family settled in Canterbury, New Zealand. She studied English at the University of Canterbury, and completed a Master's in Creative Writing at The Institute of ...more

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