This is part of my Summer Reads series where I’ll be reviewing a series of “not just cookbooks”.
This wasn’t going to be this week’s Summer Reads pick but when Jan Scott recommends a book, you know it’s going to be a good one (Psst: she’s opening a bookstore in the fall in St Mary’s Ontario!) . Plus, this:
“Prepare to have your pants charmed right off by this warm hug of a book.” – Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Hey, I’m all about a “warm hug of a book” right now so I borrowed it from the library app and started reading… and couldn’t stop until I finished it! Definitely warranting the “Summer Reads” label!
From the publisher:
When a new teacher arrives in a tiny fishing village, she realizes the most important lessons are the ones she learns outside the classroom.
It’s 1985. Rachel O’Brien arrives in Little Cove seeking a fresh start after her father dies and her relationship ends. As a new teacher at the local Catholic high school, Rachel chafes against the small community, where everyone seems to know her business. The anonymous notes that keep appearing on her car, telling her to go home, don’t make her feel welcome either.
Still, Rachel is quickly drawn into the island’s distinctive music and culture, as well as the lives of her students and fellow teacher, Doug Bishop. As Rachel begins to bond with her students, her feelings for Doug also begin to grow. Rachel tries to ignore her emotions because Doug is in a long-distance relationship with his high school sweetheart. Or is he?
Eventually, Rachel’s beliefs clash with church and community, and she makes a decision that throws her career into jeopardy. In trying to help a student, has she gone too far? Only the intervention of the ‘Holy Dusters,’ local women who hook rugs and clean the church, can salvage Rachel’s job as well as her chance at a future with Doug.
What the blurb doesn’t say is that Rachel is a new FRENCH teacher which means not only is she dealing with the culture shock of moving from the big city to a small village, but also the negative attitude towards French from many of the high-schoolers in her care. I empathized with her so many times because, even though the majority of my students now are pretty positive about French, in the past, I haven’t always been so lucky. I remember being a bright-eyed younger teacher with loads of exciting plans and showing up in class to be met with stony-faced silence, or worse, behavioural issues. Rachel faces all of these and, to her credit, works hard to earn the trust and respect of her students although her path is a bit more roundabout than I expect she intended.
As well as challenges on the job, Rachel is dealing with the realities of moving from a large city to a tiny, somewhat isolated village where the culture and language take a little getting used to. As does the fact that everyone knows everyone and what they are up to at all time. It’s a somewhat rough transition and at the start you wonder if she’s going to stick it out (I might not have!). And, um, what’s that I said about getting used to the language? I hear you ask. Don’t they speak English in Newfoundland? Well, yes they do but it’s a little different than the English spoken in Ontario and Rachel needs a while to assimilate in that regard as well (having visited Newfoundland a few years ago, I can attest to the fact that it takes your ear a while to get used to the way people speak), but not after she makes a huge mistake in suggesting that she offer an after school English grammar club to teach the students how to speak properly (an idea that goes down like a lead balloon, as you can imagine). It’s entertaining (and a little uncomfortable sometimes) following her path to settling into the culture and way of life. From the blurb, you might imagine that romance is the main theme of the book but actually it’s not. The romance is central to the story but not overdone.
New Girl in Little Cove is a fun summer read by Damhnait (pronounced Downwith) Monaghan, a former teacher and lawyer, now author, who grew up in both Ontario and Newfoundland (where she spent a year teaching). This is her debut novel and one I highly recommend. The characters are endearing, the location quirky and beautifully described and the storyline compelling. A truly enjoyable read.
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