Monday, 30 December 2013

Epilogue #4

The Rehearsal
Eleanor Catton

Eleanor Catton has received plenty of attention this year for her Booker Prize-winning novel, The Luminaries. It was an interest in this novel -- seemingly written in a historiographic metafiction-esque style, and compared by some to the much-beloved-by-me series Twin Peaks -- that led me to check out first (as I'll be reading The Luminaries at some point in the new year) Catton's comparatively short debut novel, The Rehearsal.

Funnily enough, The Rehearsal's small-scale, yet ambitiously and originally presented, narrative brought to mind Twin Peaks -- though presumably in a different way to how The Luminaries' story of murder and greed did to its critics. I say this because The Rehearsal's story - largely about how the discovery of an affair between a teacher and his student has a 'rippling effect' across a small community of people - echoes, in a way, how David Lynch and Mark Frost's series presented the cataclysmic aftermath of Laura Palmer's death; as well as in how such an aftermath reveals and explores in some depth the strange 'micro-culture' of secondary school-age teenagers, to which adults are (against their wishes) excluded.

Though Catton's experimentation -- a chronologically fragmented non-linear narrative, elements of metafictional play, an modernist / expressionist favouring of heightened subjectivity -- may initially seem daunting and off-putting to some, I personally felt that these elements were used very effectively. Catton has praised the ever-evolving narrative form of the 'box set' TV series, and I think it shows in this novel in how - like with series like The Sopranos or Lost - narrative complexity and unorthodox devices are utilised in a more accessible fashion; in a way that is intended more to propel the reader's interest and engagement with the story than to shock or subvert.

Overall, I highly enjoyed The Rehearsal's effortlessly ambitious and brilliantly observed microscope-view of its small-scale settings and characters -- managing even, with its sort of ironic punchline of an ending, to conclude the novel in a satisfying way and without compromising this dedication to its understated and grounded setting -- and I look forward to seeing how The Luminaries will present such exciting originality on a contrastingly larger scale.

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