Author: Joanna Barnard
Published: Ebury Press July 2015
Status: Read from July 16 to 17, 2015 – I own a copy
In Precocious, Joanna Bernard’s protagonist, Fiona Palmer, has never forgotten her first love. She was just fourteen, a bright but lonely girl, when she developed a crush on her handsome and attentive English teacher, Henry Morgan, and the two plunged head long into an all consuming affair.
Fiona is now thirty and when a chance meeting with Henry highlights the mediocrity of her marriage and career, she abandons both to recapture the passion and excitement of their once illicit relationship.
Moving between the present and past, Barnard details the evolution of the relationship between Fiona and Henry. Fiona’s teenage diary entries and recollections reveal her vulnerability and angst, chronicling her schoolgirl crush, and her growing determination to seduce Mr Morgan.
“When I think about it, I have really sort of worked on him, and I feel like I’m getting somewhere. In the space of about a year, I’ve decided I would get close to him and I have…. I have got a tiny piece of HM – but it gives me hope. I will get all of him someday.”
Fiona’s second tense present voice details their reunion as adults, her obsessive desire to reignite their relationship and to finally become his legitimate lover, an equal partner.
“You are everywhere.
HM Your initials. I see them in car registrations and my heart skips a beat. I seek out the letters H and M in newspapers and draw them together with my eyes.
Him. Him, him, him. You, you, you. Parasite of my thoughts.”
But as the story progresses, Fiona’s fairytale notions are slowly stripped away. Morgan is revealed as a skilled manipulator, and the ways in which he nurtured and inflamed Fiona’s teenage devotion become clear. While Fiona has always been convinced she was the instigator of their relationship, learning that she was not the first, nor had been the last, in a long line of student conquests she is forced to reexamine their past, and present, relationship.
Barnard’s exploration of the relationship is thoughtful, avoiding sensationalism in favour of realism . The writing is skilled, with an immediate and intimate tone that draws the reader in.
Compelling and provocative, Precocious is a thought provoking story about an unsettling subject.
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