Precocious - Joanna Barnard - compelling and readable
Fiona Palmer is (un)happily married when a chance meeting with her former teacher plunges her headlong into an affair.
Intercut with the realities of their adult relationship, Fiona remembers first meeting the enigmatic Henry Morgan as a precocious and lonely fourteen-year-old. Her schoolgirl crush developed into an intense relationship, but it was always one which she controlled.
Or did she?
A controversial, compelling debut novel from an award-winning writer
It's quite probably a tale many of us can relate to, focussing on that teenage crush on a teacher which could so easily get out of hand. The narrator is Fiona who is now 30, married and has never really got over her teenage crush, because for her it was different - she was different and what happened in her past wasn't a mere crush it was love - (wasn't it?)
Even though she is happy with her oh so gentle and tolerant husband, she is missing excitement in her life and when she bumps into her ex English teacher Mr Morgan, she finds the flame which has been on a back burner all these years flares back into life and she rushes without heed into an ill advised and self destructive affair which threatens to consume her.
The story zips back and forth to when she was a schoolgirl, recording her growing pains in a secret diary and feeling every ounce of angst and passion that a handsome attentive teacher can inspire. We watch her fall in love and as the relationship between the 15 year old Fee and her 28 year old teacher develops, it's easy to be swept along and think, as does she, there's nothing wrong with this, they have found each other, kindred spirits despite the age difference and the innate wrongness of any kind of intimacy between the Mentor and the pupil.
Back in the present day we watch her careering along an obvious collision course and begin to see what she has failed to recognise, this man has well concealed flaws - Is Fee going to allow herself to be totally destroyed by them?
It's really very believable and a gripping read, however I was really expecting some sort of OMG moment that never happened and the ending was a little too gentle with several things unresolved, for me to give this very readable and competent debut novel a perfect 10.
My thanks to the publisher Randomhouse for my copy via Netgalley in exchange for sharing my thoughts publicly.