Eleanor Catton was born in 1985. Born in Canada and raised in Canterbury, she completed an MA in Creative Writing at Victoria University in 2007 and won the Adam Prize in Creative Writing for this, her first novel. She also won the 2007 Sunday Star-Times short story competition and the audience award at Once Upon a Deadline, a one-day story contest in the 2008 NZ International Arts Festival Writers and Readers Week. She is the recipient of the 2008 Glenn Schaeffer Fellowship to study at the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the 2008 Louis Johnson New Writers Bursary.
Already released in New Zealand, The Rehearsal has garnered awards and impressive rights deals-and it's easy to see why. 'Assured' is the word that comes to mind in describing the bold way Catton uses language, the exploration of characters' internal lives, and the slippery, overlapping plotlines the author creates. Readers needn't bother following the exact chronology to appreciate the themes and atmosphere Catton builds. Among her characters are a teenage girl whose sister is at the centre of a school sex scandal, the girl's music teacher and confidant, and a male acting student. Performance is the obvious theme here, with the reader never certain what's being described is 'real life' or a performance of it. The Rehearsal is a page-turner in its own way, but by the end I was as emotionally tired as if I'd re-lived high school. Life may be an act at times, but surely not one as all-consuming as it is here! Ultimately I longed for just one character free from exhausting self-obsession. That said, the playful, inventive language, experimental form, Catton's impressive eye for detail, and the spot- on creation of high-school concerns make this a good recommendation for fans of literary fiction, perhaps even for the mature YA reader-though the student/ teacher relationship plot is probably unlikely to see it placed on reading lists any time soon. Matthia Dempsey is editor of Bookseller+Publisher
This is a daring book, full of velvety pleasures but never afraid to show its claws. Eleanor Catton is crazily talented and insightful - and best of all, she makes language seem new. Emily Perkins.