28/12/2007

The Learning Curve (by Melissa Nathan)

Melissa Nathan was one of the better writers of humorous chick-lit in recent years. I previously read her novel 'The Nanny' and liked rather more than I had expected to. So when I found another of her novels in a charity shop, I bought it immediately.

'The Learning Curve' is Melissa Nathan's final novel; she died a couple of months after completing it - only 37 years old. In the prologue she actually states that she was in the unusual situation of knowing that her book would probably be published posthumously.

It's the story of Nicky Hobbs, a thirty-year-old primary school teacher. She's a very good, dedicated teacher who gets along well with both children and staff - on the whole. Her closest friends are Rob - who she went out with, some years before, Ally, and Pete. Nicky broke up with Rob seven years before the story begins because she wanted to settle down and have children, and he didn't. Since then she has remained single.

In Nicky's class is a boy called Oscar who is dreamier and more interesting than many children his age. Nicky learns that, like her, he lost his mother at a young age. Unfortunately his father is a workaholic, so Oscar is looked after by a series of au pair girls, and his neighbour Lilith, who was his mother's best friend.

Sparks fly when Nicky tries to persuade Oscar's father to come to a Parents' Evening. Misunderstandings abound, leading to some fairly humorous situations. And when Nicky and Oscar's father start to make friends, Rob starts suggesting that perhaps he and Nicky should become an item again..

The plot is further complicated by Rob and Nicky being made joint deputy heads of the school, and then both being asked to apply for the post of Head. The current Head, Miss James, is a somewhat eccentric lady who loves jigsaw puzzles.

Oh, it's all light-hearted, rather caricatured, and - in some ways - shallow. But the main characters are believable and pull at the heartstrings, the relationships within the school seem realistic, and the book is well-written and fast-paced. The ending is very cleverly done, and all the ends are neatly tied together.

All in all, a pleasant light read.

No comments: