Rules is the second book by Jane Beaton which favours a theme found to be loved by many – boarding school. There are relatively few boarding school stories for adults, but hopefully this will be a series that becomes so. This is what I anticipate anyway.
Maggie Adair for those who did not read Class, is a teacher of English and starts her second year at Downey House, a private boarding school for girls set at the coast in Cornwall. She is determined to make this a better year for herself and also her pupils, but life has a habit of getting in the way of Maggie’s plans.
Now engaged to Stan, who stays in Glasgow. Maggie suddenly realises there is more to life than nights spent drinking in the pub and returning for an unsatisfied drunken fumble. Maggie’s eyes have been opened by David, fellow English teacher at the neighbouring Downey School for Boys. But for some reason she keeps clinging on to Stan. However why is the enthusiasm for her wedding not there? It is merely being organised around her. Beaton creates a situation which made me as a reader scream at Maggie “Stan is no good for you”; “David will give you so much more”. Although David appears weak around his ex fiancé, he has many attributes which Maggie relates even more so since she became a teacher at Downey House. A skill of a good writer to keep her audience guessing and wanting more!
However, it is just not us as readers who are aware of the frisson between Maggie and David. Maggie’s girls are also aware and there is plenty of teenage angst amongst them all. They hold on to what they know and use it at the right opportunity when being a teenager is not fair amongst the punishment given by Maggie.
Fliss has fallen for Will a local lad to her at home, now resident at the boy’s school. Will only has eyes for Alice, Fliss’ friend. So Fliss buoyed by watching new girl Zelda take Fliss’ other friend Simone under her wing and transform her. Fliss undergoes her own makeover with disastrous results. Why didn’t Maggie spot this happening to her own girls, her responsibility earlier? Maggie’s faith in her ability is tested as she deals with the aftermath. Perhaps Maggie should go back to Glasgow, become a wife and mother and fit the stereotype that she seems desperate not to be.
A successful end of academic year for Maggie’s pupils and perhaps a successful year personally as the train draws out of Truro station taking Maggie to her new future or her old past?
I would recommend this book for the older teen/young adult readership – a book to move forward reading from Enid Blyton school tales. Something had it been available when I was that age I would have read and enjoyed, a transition to adult fiction, albeit for some reason stuck in the “chick-lit” genre. A good second novel, but with plenty of room for improvement providing the dedication is there by the author to continue.