Alone in the Classroom (Hardcover)

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Hay is the winner of the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Ottawa Book Prize, and the Libris Award for Fiction Book of the Year for her novel Late Nights on Air. Hay's fourth novel, Alone in The Classroom is a Globe and Mail Best Book.

In a small prairie school in 1929, Connie Flood helps a struggling student, Michael Graves, learn how to read. Observing them and darkening their lives is the principal, Parley Burns, whose strange behavior culminates in an attack so disturbing its repercussions continue to the present day. Connie's niece, Anne, tells the story. Impelled by curiosity about her dynamic, adventurous aunt and her more conventional mother, she revisits Connie's past and her mother's broken childhood. In the process she unravels the enigma of Parley Burns and the mysterious, and unrelated, deaths of two young girls. As the novel moves deeper into their lives, the triangle of principal, teacher, student opens out into other emotional triangles--aunt, niece, lover; mother, daughter, granddaughter--until a sudden, capsizing love thrusts Anne herself into a newly independent life.

This spellbinding tale--set in Saskatchewan and the Ottawa Valley--crosses generations and cuts to the bone. It probes the roots of obsessive love and hate, how the hurts and desires of childhood persist and are passed on, as if in the blood. It lays bare the urgency of discovering what we were never told about the past. And it celebrates the process of becoming who we are in a world full of startling connections that lie just out of sight.

About the Author

Formerly a radio broadcaster, Elizabeth Hay's previous novels are the Giller Prize-winning Late Night on Air, A Student of Weather, which was a Giller Prize finalist, and Garbo Laughs, which won the Ottawa Book Award and was a finalist fore the Governor General's Award. She is also the author of non-fiction and two collections of short stories. In 2002 she received the prestigious Marian Engel Award for her body of work. Hay has spent time in Mexico and New York City.

Praise For…

“Alone in the Classroom is meant to be read slowly, or even better, read twice. The story that unfolds, replete with poetry and punishment, passionate entanglements and incestuous love, and is even richer and more rewarding the second time around.” —Artha van Herk, The Globe and Mail
“There’s nothing stiff about the fictional past brought to life in this compelling novel. In part, that’s because of Hay’s flair for evocative description, but also because she’s a master of characterization. In their fallibility, their moral struggles and their conflicted desires, the characters of Alone in the Classroom ring utterly true.” —Barbara Casey, Toronto Sun
“Alone in the Classroom is a novel that can be read solely for its language, for the author's precise choice of words that make every landscape, every emotion and every reflection shimmer in colour and shape and texture. . . . It is a novel that deserves to be read simply for the truth it speaks about the universal desire to know and to understand the stories and experiences and people that shape individual lives and the lives of those who come after them. . . . Hay's fiction has always demonstrated a keen appreciation of people, places and history. This novel is further immutable evidence of that.” —Sharon Chisvin, Winnipeg Free Press
“It’s a testament to the quality of Hay’s writing that the lack of a traditional ending tantalizes rather than disappoints; and the villain, Principal Parley Burns, who moves through the school ‘like mustard gas in subtle form’, is one of the most memorable villains I’ve ever encountered.” —Laura Wilson, The Guardian
“Eroticism and obsessive love are potent forces in Alone in the Classroom.” —Maclean’s
“A highly accomplished and resourceful stylist”—Paul Binding, The Spectator
“An exquisite study of relationships . . .  which meanders in graceful prose across the Canadian landscape and across generations.” —Financial Times
“Alone in the Classroom is not merely a murder mystery. It mixes in layers of historic memoir, family secrets, romance and subtle hints of social commentary . . . It's also a story about obsession, childhood and the special relationships between daughters, mothers and aunts. All of which makes for an ambitious vision and unusually literary page-turner, appropriate for an author who has comfortably become part of CanLit royalty.” —Calgary Herald
“A multilayered tale, the novel is at once a love story, a murder mystery and a journey into the darkest chambers of the human heart . . . Hay’s strange archeology of the heart will fascinate readers who like to delve deep into the mysteries of human nature, without the promise of treasure at the end — those who see the quest for meaning as a goal in itself…Hay’s achingly poetic evocations of the landscape will leave a lasting impression, as will her uncanny gift of calling up childhood.” —Ottawa Citizen
“Elizabeth Hay, 2007 Giller Prize winner for Late Nights On Air, returns with her fourth novel, a rich story of interweaving human relationships and generations of a family . . . If you're new to Elizabeth Hay, Alone in the Classroom will be an enjoyable introduction. Those anticipating her next book are unlikely to be disappointed.” —Vancouver Sun
“Flawlessly rendered. Confidently told. A story that, viewed from above is gorgeous and rich and complete, the imperfections in the world created revealed only to those who jump in with both feet and look beyond the polite veneer to the flawed humans who give the story its pulse.” —January Magazine
“An exquisitely rendered journey into the mysteries of the past in families and in lives.” —Salon
“Eerie and thoughtful . . . [A] closely observed generational story about family and heredity.” —Elle (Canada)
“An evocative, enigmatic unravelling of family stories over three generations.” —More Magazine

Product Details
ISBN: 9781623651046
ISBN-10: 1623651042
Publisher: Maclehose Press Quercus
Publication Date: August 5th, 2014
Pages: 240
Language: English
Series: Johns Hopkins Press Health Books (Paperback)