Avatar photo

Innocents by Cathy Coote

Click for book link

This is a mesmerising and unusual novel. Told entirely from the female character’s perspective, it tells the tale of a disturbed young woman who seduces her teacher and enters an obsessive relationship with him.

Literally nothing else happens in this book apart from their relationship, which is part of the strength of the writing. There are no side plots. Other characters are scant and barely mentioned and rapidly forgotten. Despite this it flows very well and remains compelling amid the sense you get of the narrator’s own fixation and mental suffocation.

Another strength is the dialogue. This is always realistic and provides a good break to and contrast from the rather artificial tone of her narrative. You feel a sense of the real world again, instead of seeing it through the lens of her deluded perspective.

What I found interesting was that the character is no way near as disturbed or as sociopathic as she likes to think she is. The relationship is reasonably healthy and not abusive (he’s kind and supportive to her, one late scene excepted) and age gap apart, they’re both above the age of consent in Australia where the story takes place.

All in all the character is more needy than destructive, and pretty vanilla. Anyone who has read Taming the Beast by Emily Maguire will understand what I mean.

But certainly it’s a “darker” read than the average student-teacher relationship novel. There is one particularly disturbing scene near the end but it’s in context with the plot, and there’s still kind of a happy ending, or at least continuation.

This will probably appeal to fans of psychological and age-gap novels more than student-teacher, as the school element is minimal and ends early since they both leave the school.