Nothing like a good scandal. The most recent one involves a 41-year-old Sheba (Batsheba), a teacher, and her affair with one of the students, Connolley. The book is written as a recollection of the events and the narrator is Sheba’s fellow teacher, Barbara.
Let me begin with noting that there was not a single character in the book that I would truly like. Sheba was emotionally immature and let herself begin a “relationship” with a boy, who was her student. It’s not a story about love beyond boundaries, such as age or relation teacher-student. It’s not about love at all. Connolley had a nice, little adventure and moved on. Sheba cheated on her husband and hurt her two children.
Then there’s Barbara. She’s a stern, cold woman who doesn’t have her own family or any friends. She developed an obsession for Sheba from the latter’s first day at school. Soon becoming Sheba’s friend became some sort of a meaning of life for Barbara. It’s not entirely stated if that fascination came from Barbara’s hidden lesbian feelings, frustration, or jealousy over Sheba’s family, or simply craziness. Personally, I think she was a lesbian, hid it all her life, and the obsession came from frustration.
But that’s just my opinion.
As well as feeling sorry for Barbara. Maybe she didn’t deserve to feel sorry for, but she was lonely and had no real aim in life. So I felt for her. Doesn’t mean that I liked her, tough. Too cold, too manipulative, too controlling to be likeable. Her style lacks of emotions, and though I usually like it when there are a lot of emotions in the book, not this time. The empty tone, that Barbara uses, fits her character perfectly and any other would ruin it for me.
I read a lot of opinions that the movie was better, but to be honest after reading the book I couldn’t focus on the movie. Seemed very boring for me, which the book didn’t.
The book itself is very well written. It’s really honest, and the characters – unlikeable as they are – are created carefully and realistically. The book is fascinating and definitely worth a try. It’s a great story not about the affair itself, but about extreme loneliness. It’s a great psychological portrait of a few characters, but mostly of Barbara.