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A book that will make your heart stop.

Posted on: Wednesday, 7 December 2011

I was offering an trainee teacher some advice on interview questions today.

"What did they ask you? he asked. "In your first teaching interview?"

So I thought back. And I thought. And I stroked my chin and thought some more.

And I really couldn't remember.

I remember my interview for the PGCE. I remember the man who would become my lecturer entering into an impromptu role play about behaviour management and acting out the part of a 15 year old boy. A fifteen year old boy who hates poetry.

He scrumpled up a piece of paper on his desk and threw it at me.

"That's what I think of your fucking handout," he said. "What are you going to do?"

Ah. Rightio.

But that's another story.

Thinking about it now, at my first school interview, they must have asked me about classroom management. About assessment. About what makes a good lesson. About what makes a crap lesson. They must have asked, 'Why THIS school?'

But there's only one question I can actually remember.

"So, Laura. What are you reading at the minute?"

The words couldn't tumble out quickly enough. "Oh my God. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. Have you read it?"

The Head shook his head.

And I started blethering on about it. About Maurice and Sarah and their torrid affair. About its post-War bleakness. About what a desolate read it was, and how fierce. About the tug of war between Catholic morals and the wartime spirit of "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!" About Sarah's death, and Maurice's terrible realisation that his love is shabby and shallow. Maybe not just his love - maybe all love. What the hell is love, anyway? About Greene's wider messages about transience and human selfishness and dishonesty. I imagine I didn't tell him that I'd dropped it in the bath. Or that it appealed to my highly-developed sense of morbidity.

Or how I was scrawling quotations from it in my little book of the time.

The Church offers privileges, Mr. Miles, as well as responsibilities. There are special Masses for our dead. Prayers are regularly said. We remember our dead,” he added, and I thought angrily, how do you remember them? Your theories are all right. You preach the importance of the individual. Our hairs are all numbered, you say, but I can feel her hair on the back of my hand; I can remember the fine dust of hair at the base of the spine as she lay face down on my bed. We remember our dead too, in our way.

What outrage. How dare you claim your cool pious grasp on my love was greater than my physical knowledge of her? I knew every inch of her. She was mine. Powerful, eh?

But that fire doesn't last. Time gets us all in the end. Greene tells us so, the miserable bugger.

Oh, she doesn’t belong to anybody now,” he said, and suddenly I saw her for what she was—a piece of refuse waiting to be cleared away; if you needed a bit of hair you could take it, or trim her nails if nail trimmings had value to you. Like a saint’s her bones could be divided up—if anybody required them. She was going to be burned soon, so why shouldn’t everybody have what he wanted first? What a fool I had been during three years to imagine that in any way I had possessed her. We are possessed by nobody, not even by ourselves.

Oh, and this. It's beautiful.

"...but when I tried to remember her voice saying 'don't worry,' I found I had no memory for sounds. I couldn't imitate her voice. I couldn't even caricature it: when I tried to remember it, it was anonymous – just a woman's voice. The process of forgetting her had set in."

It's absolutely stuffed to the gills with hit-the-nail-on-the-head writing. Note the indiscriminate, crazed quoting. I wolfed this book down, I tell you.



Sometimes I don’t recognise my own thoughts.

OK, so perhaps you don't want to kill yourself over Christmas. But when you're feeling like you want to indulge your maudlin side (just me, then?) I thoroughly recommend this gritty beauty.


  1. Now I've seen the film but have yet to read the book, with all the passages you' be shared I think it's perhaps one for 2012. Hope you have a good day at school.

  2. Hi

    Tks very much for post:

    I like it and hope that you continue posting.

    Let me show other source that may be good for community.

    Source: Head teacher interview questions

    Best rgs


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