A much maligned vocation slowly suffocating under the weight of bureaucracy is the catalyst for an ideological clash between Terry the free spirited educator and Laurie the newly appointed, results driven head teacher whose risk averse business model views children as commodities rather than individuals.
Suzanne Leal presents a rich array of characters inhabiting an Australian backwater of dreamy ocean vistas. Yet this scenic backdrop is interwoven with layers of discontent and suspicion that generates ripples through the emotional landscape culminating in a tsunami of explosive revelations.
Terry remains the fading heartbeat for this cast of ultimately troubled souls but as he becomes increasingly ostracised it is Nina, with her troubled marriage unravelling, who provides the emotional backbone for the story as she struggles to reconcile a love lost with the pragmatic challenge of gaining the confidence of a classroom of problematic children.
Sid and Joan are the unlikely elderly couple who give the plot an air of nostalgia and a sepia tinted perspective on the true value of relationships but it is the seemingly negligent assumptions that surround the terrible secret being withheld by Terry that gives the story its suspense and moral question mark.
The story derives empathy from children suffering in the vacuum of parental indifference. Elsie and Bridie have names that conjure up wistfulness, fleeting beauty and the ephemera of life but it is Terry’s flame that is being slowly extinguished by logic at odds with the beauty of education.
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