Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Good School; Richard Yates

Title: A Good School 
Author: Richard Yates
Publication Year: 1978 
Publisher: Picador
Edition: trade softcover
Source: personal copy
Location: Connecticut
Date Completed: 8/7/2011 
Rating: 4/5
Recommend: 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.


  1. I still want to read Revolutuionary Road, but this is the page count I have time for right now!

  2. The era I love to read about! sounds my cup of tea.

  3. I haven't tried Yates writing yet, and I'm fascinated with boarding school stories, so I might start with this one.

  4. Many of Yates classmates recognized themselves in this novel... and weren't happy with their portrayal. I think you will love the biography!

  5. Hmm not too sure if I like the sound of this or not, glad you enjoyed it though and thanks for the recommendation.

  6. That's a short one, might be worth a try!

  7. I tried to read A Separate Peace but couldn't get into it. I think maybe it's just Yates isn't for me.

  8. As a new fan of Yates I'll definitely include this one on my list. Sounds interesting, especially since it could be construed as semi-autobiographical.

  9. I think this does sound rather autobiographical and am wondering if I would like this peek into Yates' life through the medium of this story. It sounds very compelling for such a short read. I might just have to pick it up.

  10. I haven't read anything by this author yet, but I think i should very soon.
    I am really interested after reading about the author/.

  11. My son also loves this author so I'm going to make sure to tell him about this one. I was planning on buying all of Yates books for his new Kindle!!

  12. Still sounds good, I love Yates' work.

  13. I still haven't read anything by Yates. My 'to read' list grows ever longer.

  14. I don't know why I haven't picked up any of his books. For some reason I always feel like they are going to be sad. Must get over that and pick up one of his books!

  15. It does seem like it must be based on his own experiences. I need to read him soon!


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