The Rehearsal Review
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When the students at all-girls school Abbey Grange find out that their jazz band conductor, Mr. Saladin, has been having an affair with one of his students, they’re not sure how to feel. And as they arrive for lessons with their saxophone teacher, the students act out their feelings in their own kind of high school drama—Julia, the tough girl, Bridget, the dull girl, and Isolde, the younger sister of the object of Mr. Saladin’s affections.

Meanwhile, at the nearby drama institute, Stanley is starting his first term. But while he’s learning how to make a stage performance seem true to life, he still can’t seem to figure out how to live his own life.

The two parts of The Rehearsal play out rather haphazardly. It moves back and forth from the sax teacher and her students to Stanley and his classes—the girls’ stories introduced by the days on which they happen, Stanley’s share of the stories introduced by the months in which they happen. They jump forward and back chronologically, too, turning the whole thing into a kind of puzzle of a story (which is made even more perplexing for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere by the fact that the story takes place in the Southern Hemisphere—where the school year starts in February and the summer begins in November). And that all works together to make it a challenging read. It takes more than the average amount of concentration to figure out what happened when, how it might fit together, and what’s just a part of the characters’ own made-up drama—not to mention what it’s all supposed to mean. And when the book comes to an end, you still won’t really know what actually happened and what only happened in the characters’ imagination.

  
 
To make the read even more challenging, the two parts of the story seem completely unrelated for much of the book. Just when you find yourself interested in what’s happening with the sax teacher and her various students, the story will cut back to Stanley and his classes—and, once again, you’ll have to set one story aside and pick up the other one. You’ll never really get a chance to get to know the characters. And it isn’t until later in the book—when the two stories start coming together—that it becomes truly interesting.

The Rehearsal does tell an intriguing story—and it makes some interesting observations about the confused drama of youth. But it’s a hazy and somewhat obscure novel, with characters that you’ll struggle to care about and stories that you’ll struggle to put together.

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