Alone in the ClassroomAlone in the Classroom

ISBN: 978-0-7710-3794-8
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publishing date: April 26th, 2011

UK edition available from MacLehose Press
Elizabeth Hay’s most intricate, compelling, and seductive novel yet.

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National #1 Bestseller / The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, Maclean’s

A Globe and Mail Top Book of 2011 Best Book of 2011

About the Book

In a small prairie school in 1929, Connie Flood helps a backward student, Michael Graves, learn how to read. Observing them and darkening their lives is the principal, Parley Burns, whose strange behaviour culminates in an attack so disturbing its repercussions continue to the present day.

Connie’s niece, Anne, tells the story. Impelled by curiosity about her dynamic, adventurous aunt and her more conventional mother, she revisits Connie’s past and her mother’s broken childhood. In the process she unravels the enigma of Parley Burns and the mysterious, and unrelated, deaths of two young girls. As the novel moves deeper into their lives, the triangle of principal, teacher, student opens out into other emotional triangles – aunt, niece, lover; mother, daughter, granddaughter – until a sudden, capsizing love thrusts Anne herself into a newly independent life.

This spellbinding tale – set in Saskatchewan and the Ottawa Valley – crosses generations and cuts to the bone. It probes the roots of obsessive love and hate, how the hurts and desires of childhood persist and are passed on, as if in the blood. It lays bare the urgency of discovering what we were never told about the past. And it celebrates the process of becoming who we are in a world full of startling connections that lie just out of sight.


Guardian Review

A Guardian Review of Alone in the Classroom appeared October 12, 2013. "Hay's risky strategy pays off in spades as her slow-burning story arc reaches its zenith and Connie's past links up with Anne's present to become a highly nuanced history of a whole family."

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Financial Times

Alone in the Classroom reviewed in The Financial Times October 11, 2013. Alone in the Classroom, by Elizabeth Hay Review by Maria Crawford Alone in the Classroom, by Elizabeth Hay, MacLehose Press RRP£8.99, 270 pages Elizabeth Hay is an accomplished author, and a past...

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‘Alone in the Classroom’ a Globe Best Book 2011

"Through the figure of a beloved schoolteacher aunt, Hay's narrator in this splendid novel sets out to discover the experiences that shaped her parents, and herself. In 1929, Connie Flood encounters, while teaching in Saskatchewan, a grim principal, self-important and...

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Globe and Mail review of Alone in the Classroom

"Alone in the Classroom is meant to be read slowly, or even better, read twice. The story that unfolds, replete with poetry and punishment, passionate entanglements and incestuous love, and is even richer and more rewarding the second time around." Read the full...

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