Heather McGowan is the author of Schooling, described by Jonathan Lethem as 'a thrilling crystallising novel of lyricism and erudition, a book which like the best books contains a whole, urgent and unforgettable world'.
Both powerfully and beautifully written, McGowan is an author who has been compared to Virginia Woolf and Dylan Thomas. The relationship between the heroine in the story and the precocious child is told with a vivid intensity. Any woman with a child will immediately relate to this both tender and yet sometimes frustrating relationship and yet it is the woman who comes to rely on the child as the books comes to its conclusion. A unique voice in 21st century literature.
After leaving her husband and their suffocating marriage for a new lover in Rome, the narrator of Heather McGowan's The Duchess of Nothing has her freedom, but is still trapped by the routine of life and haunted by her past. Even worse, her lover, Edmund, is just as self-absorbed and remote as her former husband. Her one source of entertainment is Edmund's seven year old brother, a curious, precocions and defiant child who becomes her responsibility during her lover's long absences. Spending their days together, they wander the city, simultaneously repelled by and drawn to each other as she tries to provide him with some kind of education. But when Edmund abandons them altogether, the amusing relationship between the narrator and her charge suddenly becomes a necessity, and she realises how much she has come to depend on the boy. Clever, wry, emotional vulnerable and acurely aware of her own precarious grasp on the world around her, the narrator of McGowan's novel speaks with a cutting honesty and a hilarious, twisted logic with a voice that's unique and utterly compelling.
Caitrin Jones, a young American, is sent to an English boarding school after her mother dies of cancer. Thrust into an unfriendly world and ridiculed for her American accent, Caitrin lays bare her thoughts and feelings in a luminous stream-of-consciousness narrative. Memories of Isabelle, the best friend she left behind in Maine, give way to dreams haunted by images of an accidental death she believes they caused before she left for England; newly awakened hopes and desires interweave with the old as she gradually adjusts to her new environment. When she begins a relationship with her chemistry teacher, her language soars to astonishing heights; its painful end brings forth words and images that subtly reflect Caitlin's deeper understanding of herself and the world. Culminating in a startling revelation, Schooling is a work of great beauty and power, a tour de force of literary artistry, allusion and illusion.