Title: A Good School
Author: Richard Yates
Publication Year: 1978
Edition: trade softcover
Source: personal copy
Date Completed: 8/7/2011
Rating: 4/5Recommend: yes
A Good School, Dorset Academy in Connecticut, is the setting for this very short novel -- just 178 pages and seven chapters long. The school is an all male prep school on the brink of financial disaster. The story takes place around the time World War II began. From what I've read about the author, Richard Yates, this novel seems to be the most autobiographical of those I've read: Revolutionary Road, The Easter Parade and Disturbing the Peace.
The first person narrator, we learn as we read, is William Grove (Yates??) who had been teased, hazed and repeatedly humiliated . Grove's grades slip, he takes up smoking to try and fit in, and eventually finds his niche at the school while working on the student newspaper, and becoming editor-in-chief. Like Grove, many of the boys at this school were sent o this school simply because their family had exhausted other options, and wanted their sons to be away from home.
The novel does not have a terribly exciting plot, but rather focuses on typical schoolboy dramas like: rowdiness, teasing, sexual antics, and many of the boys, just seeing what they could get away with, without getting caught. The are also inappropriate relationships going on behind the scenes between teachers and spouses of teachers, as well as office politics and infighting that you might find in just about any organization today. The reader gets a good feel for what is going on with several of the students and staff, as Yates is extremely skilled in peeling away the layers of the characters he creates. Even the flawed characters, seemed to have something about them that made them feel so real -- so very human.
Although this was not my favorite Yates novel to date, it is still a worthy read, reminding me somewhat of A Separate Peace, back from my early days in school. Young men just entering adulthood, with little or no preparation for war, be called to serve their country, and the once free-spirited days of youth and innocence become all but a memory. Recommended
Like William Grove, Richard Yates came from a dysfunctional family. A child of divorce, he too was sent off to a boarding school in Connecticut, at about the time this novel takes place. He also worked on the school newspaper, which is how he became interested in writing. After graduating, Yates joined the army and went off to war. I still have not grown tired of this author, and look forward to trying his biography and a few more works of fiction.