Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Good School

By Richard Yates

Set in the beginning years of World War II, this is the story of a New England prep school, of its students and teachers. Dorset Academy has the reputation of taking boys no other school will accept. This is mainly because the school is so strapped for cash that it is pretty much obliged to accept any student. Also, because of the restrictions placed on it by its elderly, eccentric, female backer, the school doesn't participate in intermural sports, which will naturally limit its appeal for many potential students. So Dorset Academy is left pretty much with the dregs of preppydom.
On the other hand, dregs though they may be, it makes for a varied, interesting and strange cast of characters: bullies and homosexuals and sociopaths and wimps of all size and shapes.
The main character is William Grove who, at the start of the book, is described as incompetent and as a slob, and who was assaulted by a gang of his fellow students in an incident of forced masturbation. He makes it through this rocky beginning and finally achieves the exalted position of editor of the school paper.
The story isn't just about the students though, it also delves into the lives of the teachers and administrators and about the girls whose lives intersect with those of the students.

This was an interesting and rather sad book. Most of the students and teachers in the story seem basically unhappy and disappointed with life. The incidents of bullying and the behavior of the boys rang so true it was like reading a memoir and not fiction. It was a good read, despite its rather melancholy tone.

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