I was excited to receive a copy of The Teacher’s Secret by Suzanne Leal for review. I’d already heard good things about it – but also, I just enjoy finding new authors and new books to read.
Terry is an experienced teacher at a small local school; he’s been there long enough that some of the parents of children in his class are also ex-pupils. He knows the ins and outs of families and is more of a friend to a lot of the children. The head teacher of the school is taking a year-long sabbatical though, and her stand-in Laurie is not impressed by Terry’s methods. She finds pretty much everything he does inappropriate and thinks he is too over-familiar with the pupils. She’s much younger than him, and you get the feeling she’s trying to assert her authority in the worst way possible.
The differences between Terry and Laurie make this a thought-provoking read; Laurie seems over-cautious and too caught up in the rules, where Terry is perhaps a little too over-familiar and should perhaps be a little more cautious in the way he interacts with the children. I love that the story has you questioning who is in the right, and whether there might be something more sinister behind Terry; perhaps his secret is something that means Laurie is right to question him. At what point does a teacher’s behaviour become inappropriate? Who is in the right here? I love that this is not simply black and white, and that it’s really left for the reader to decide whether the right thing has happened.
Terry’s is probably the main story in the book, but there are others running alongside it. I loved the way the story changed from chapter to chapter as we learned more about each character. Of course, we don’t find out about the true nature of the secret until the very end of the book!
As new characters and perspectives are added, this becomes the story of a year in the life of a school in a small coastal town in Australia. The book is split into sections for each term, which made it easy to keep track of how the school year progressed (since the Australian school year doesn’t follow the same routine as the British one). I loved the additional plotlines between other characters and how everything began to slot into place as the novel progressed.
This was a very easy read; I finished it very quickly (by my standards, at least) and I would definitely recommend it as a great summer read. It’s well written and thought provoking; very easy to follow despite the many different characters and perspectives.