DON'T STAND SO CLOSE by Lloyd Rees

DON'T STAND SO CLOSE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A sappy first novel about adolescence and midlife crisis, all wrapped up into one long run-on sentence. We first meet 36-year-old Tom Browning at the beginning of the fall in the British high school where he teaches music. This semester Tom has been coerced into including popular music in a new course entitled ""Modern Studies."" When he asks the class to respond to some Simon and Garfunkel lyrics, Claire Bennett is the only student to answer with understanding and depth. Immediately thereafter, as if struck by lightning, Tom falls in love with the girl, because, ""above all, she was an outsider, set apart from all the other adolescents in the room."" But Tom is married -- to the clinging, nagging, and jealous Annie, whom he views more as a nuisance than a soul mate. (He sees daughter Rachel and son Tarquin in much the same light.) The dark and mysterious Claire, by contrast, reawakens feelings of arousal the likes of which Tom hasn't experienced in years. The story proceeds to describe how this balding, middle-aged man wins the heart of the young girl in an effort to regain a bit of his youth. Along the way we also learn about Don Marcus, Tom's witty co-worker, who helps keep the illicit couple's little secret. On Claire's side, her wild and crazy friend Rose serves as a confidante and an alibi. What follows is a series of tête-à-têtes, mostly in pubs and on a class trip, followed by a predictable ending with little punch. The language is thick and tiresome to wade through. Don't get too close to this one.

Pub Date: June 8th, 1994
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Dufour Editions