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Terms by Ben Lyle


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October 2015 Debut of the Month.

Terms is a surprisingly powerful little book, it really does pack a mighty punch. James finishes university in the mid 90’s and takes a trip both physically and in memory back to his unconventional school days. Within a few pages it is clear that there is an intriguing and provocative tale waiting to be discovered. Ben Lyle builds the story slowly, shaping the school boy James who is fascinated by the newly arrived teacher who rules with discipline. The story flits between the past and present, the adult James is still sitting on the edge of intimacy, affection and understanding. As the terms at the school pass, suspicion and premonition start to twist together into apprehension for what is to come. The simple style balances on a razor sharp edge with an uncomfortable, complicated truth, ensuring Terms is a convincing and compelling debut. ~ Liz Robinson

A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher...

'Terms is both funny and dark. James is wonderful child narrator in the style of Adrian Mole, who says things you wish you had the courage to say. At times you feel the story is going to a place you don’t want it to go, and author, Ben Lyle, handles this side wonderfully. A reader from one of our book groups said: “The overtones black – the revenge deadly.” - Yvonne Barlow, editor, Hookline Books


Terms by Ben Lyle

Twelve-year-old James hates life at his hippy boarding school where lessons are optional, homework forbidden and school rules decided by democratic vote. All he wants is an academic education with proper exams. When a strict new maths teacher strides into this world of peace, love and fringed ponchos, James latches onto him as a symbol of hope. At first, Mervyn's eccentricities seem comic but as a more tragic story unfolds, the adult James is forced to confront his own part in a grand downfall.


'A fascinating and nuanced debut by a new literary talent.' DW Wilson

About the Author

Ben Lyle

Ben Lyle attended a succession of eccentric institutions known as 'free' schools, where he couldn't have been happier. He's worked in the film industry for the last fifteen years, while also completing an MA in creative writing at UEA and subsequently a PhD in Film and Television. He lives in South London with his partner. Terms is his first novel.

Author photo copyright Nadia Marquard Otsen

Below is a Q&A with this author:

Did the characters of James and Mervyn lead the plot or did the plot lead them?
I was interested in these two characters from the very beginning and the relationship between them. When I started writing, I didn't have a pre-determined plan for the plot - rather, I wanted to explore how these two characters would develop and interact with each other.

The dialogue sounds natural, how long had the story and characters been in your head before you began writing?
Dialogue is something you have to work at. What's on the page now is not what was in the first draft, and nowhere is this more true than with the dialogue. Again, the dialogue is also led by character and I tried hard to let the characters talk in a way that is natural for them.

How autobiographical is the story? Did you go to a school like Bannock House?
There are many elements of Bannock House that are similar to some of the schools I went to as a child but my experience was very different from that of James. I loved all my schools, and would be happy to send my children to similar style schools now.

Do you think children need discipline to thrive at school? Is your attitude to education more like Fran's or James'?
I think discipline is overrated. I never had homework until I was sixteen and rarely had compulsory lessons for the whole of my childhood, yet I have a BA, an MA and PhD all in different subjects. Children want to learn. We don't need to force them.

I guess this means I'm more in agreement with Fran than James, although there are no easy answers. Schools like Bannock House have their problems too.
Will James come up in a future story?
Who knows. I'm interested in his voice and his internal conflict, and I've thought of writing about him as a man in his forties (i.e. in the present) but I'm working on a very different project at the moment. If James' returns, it won't be for a while yet.
The novel is based on a short story, what aspect was the focus of the short story?
The short story, named Crannock House, is very much about the friendship between James and Mervyn. This came to me as an idea very quickly, and once I wrote the short story I found that I wanted to keep writing about these two people. Terms is the result of that urge.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st September 2015


Ben Lyle

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Hookline Books an imprint of Bookline and Thinker Ltd


230 pages


Literary Fiction
NewGen - YA Fiction
Debuts of the Month
Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites

Romance & relationships stories (Children's / Teenage)



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