|Reviews for Like Eiderdown & Disendowers|
| Virtuella chapter 14 . 4/21
I didn’t think it was possible for me to find Phelan more loathesome, but now I do. His callousness has no bounds. It is shocking to think that someone like that would be in charge of young people. What is also shocking is that Jen is also willing to let this extremely serious case of child abuse go unreported, this time out of concern about the reputation of the school. Well, the reputation of the school will be blown out of the solar system if this cover-up gets out. Phelan belongs jailed, obviously, but Dan and Jen both belong fired.
I didn’t find the focus on dialogue a problem. As you can see, you got me properly worked up here!
| Virtuella chapter 13 . 4/19
Ah, you capture in a nutshell what is wrong with education: “The school's average performance on state standardized tests and college enrollment rate affected everything from PTA involvement to housing prices.” So really, it is about everything other than the students. No wonder Dan is getting cramp. And of course having to be in the same room with Phelan.
A rather cryptic message from Phelan. So, presumably he knows that Dan knows, as the old geezer would have told him about passing on the prize. Does Phelan take the fact that the police have not been at his door yet to mean that Dan is complicit? Is he going to blackmail Dan? He certainly has a nerve to turn up and claim Rebecca as he does. And, OMG, she goes with him? After she just felt that Dan had “he'd spun something to catch her,” what a lovely sentence that was!
I also liked the ideas of impulses, reactions, forces and balances that are evoked by the physics lesson. In vanilla. :)
| Virtuella chapter 12 . 4/17
What a wonderful description of Hannah's home! I always love it to come into someone's house and find it full of imaginative detail. You have such a talent for making such scenes vibrant. The music box is a delightful addition.
Certainly a dangerous time for Rebecca to be playing Truth or Dare, even without the dare! However, she escaped unscathed, it would seem, and perhaps even with a greater degree of self awareness.
Dan's dream is powerful and his yearning for Sophie palpable. The way he struggles with his feelings for Rebecca is believable. I am rather surprised, though, that he doesn't seem to give any thought to his professional misconduct and the possible consequences. He has failed to report a very serious child protection issue. Howevermuch he feels he wants to respect Rebecca's confidentiality, the law is not on his side (certainly not in Scotland, and I would imagine not in the USA either.) Is he so vulnerable and so, well, infatuated, that he doesn't care about his self preservation?
I'm intrigued by the new plot element you are introducing concerning Rebecca's mother.
| Virtuella chapter 11 . 4/12
Oh, you hit a nerve here. Roadkill makes me so sad, the way we casually accept it that all these fellow creatures lose their lives due to our pursuit of speed. Of course the symbolic application is obvious. Will Rebecca become roadkill? She seems cautious enough now to avoid that fate.
The awkwardness of the café scene is palpable. Interesting to see that Rebecca is harbouring feelings of self-loathing that predate her encounter with Phelan. I liked how this contrasted with the second café scene, where Dan, though not getting very far in his mission, is so much more at ease.
I come down very firmly of the Rochester side, so I’d have failed that student, lol. The real creep in that book is St John, he who emotionally blackmails Jane. I’m wondering now what the significance is of the books that are mentioned. Rebecca, abused orphan without a penny to her name, fair enough, but no Jane she. Dan’s house, while not Thornfield by any stretch of imagination, is similarly a refuge. Tennessee Williams, too, hm. I’ll need to think about that some more.
| Virtuella chapter 10 . 4/11
And now this is absolutely heart-breaking. I can’t really say much else about it.
First paragraph, nice way of inverting the usual idyllic seaside scene.
Liked the glass of milk, indicating he treats her like a much younger child.
| Virtuella chapter 9 . 4/11
The first paragraph is absolutely excellent, and I really liked the whole passage about Sophie. It made me feel very sympathetic towards Dan. Even more so the description of his house, the lacking fence, symbol of his vulnerability, the space for a family that isn’t filled, not even by a dog. Makes me feel so sad for him.
There are some excellent phrases and sentences in this chapter:
“skin the texture of new paper” - Such a good image of what young skin feels like! The outside of my daughter’s arms, for example.
“His watch ticked on, its second hand too slow, minute hand too fast.” - Great oxymoron that conveys a sense of confusion and emotional disorientation.
“in a bed he knew and she didn't” - Good point, and he could have had the good sense to let her sleep on the couch. It’s not as if he’d changed the bedlinen.
“it did hurt in those places where pieces of her once there were scraped away.
He could try but he couldn't unscrape what wasn't there anymore.” - Both these sentences are very good, however they are tautological; I’d leave one of them out.
I totally cringed at the awkwardness and inappropriateness of this situation!
| Virtuella chapter 8 . 4/8
The bleakness of the fast food restaurant is an excellent contrast to Phelan’s lavish home and I liked the bit about how all the sounds seemed to loud. Places like that aren’t pleasant at the best of time, but downright dismal late at night, and yet it becomes a refuge for Rebecca.
She really doesn’t have a lot of options at the moment, does she? Of course I agree with Waters, she really ought to go to the police, but I can see why she doesn’t want to.
| Virtuella chapter 7 . 4/7
My goodness, what a painful, painful encounter! For Rebecca to think what she had to think under the circumstances, for Dan Waters to become aware of what she was obviously thinking and yet being so oddly (for an English teacher!) incapable of clarifying the situation, for him to make a slip like saying “Not like this," and for her to pick up on it immediately. – it makes me want to bury my head in a pillow, it is just such an awful situation!
What a shame that he makes the innocent mistake to call her sweetie and thus destroys his chance to win her trust. I was cheering on Rebecca, though, that she takes charge and runs without waiting to be rescued. It seems a little too convenient, though, that in spite of Lucia’s clear-out she still has clothes, and suitable ones too, at her disposal.
There is some excellent imagery in this chapter, the Easter egg for one, and most particular the deer/carcass metaphor.
“He was above all that.” – Is this a deliberate nod at Miss Jean Brodie?
“the back of his palm” – Isn’t that the back of his hand?
| Virtuella chapter 6 . 4/7
Lucia’s complicity is chilling. She may have children to support, but she must be aware that she is covering up criminal activities. The whole age-of-consent issue aside, this is clearly a case of kidnapping. No wonder Rebecca wants to throw a glass at her.
"Do you think one of your beloved teachers will see the injustice and save you? That would be a cute idea." - And yet we get the idea that this is what might happen…
The description of Roger’s luxury life are strong, perhaps to the point of being a little overwrought.
I love this phrase: “but a phantom succubus hung in the air” The use of the term “succubus” is both ironic and startling here, and I liked how the rest of the sentence evoked an atmosphere of general unease.
| Virtuella chapter 5 . 4/7
I absolvent adored how you described the room that is to become Rebecca’s prison. The “not quite cosy” size, the foreshadowing from the reference to fish tanks and bird cages, the décor of the room with its gentleness and innocence which will contrast with her experience there. It is a stroke of genius to sum it up as “lovely in the way of pressed flowers or glass paperweights.” This is, on the surface, indeed lovely in a nostalgic, Victorian/Edwardian way, and yet, the connotation of pressed flower! The paperweight also, with the connotation of weighing things down, keeping them in place, and often a paperweight might have something enclosed inside, thus making it a miniature prison.
While the opening only hints very subtly at what is to come, you have skilfully built up towards her in the following paragraphs:
“he held them in front of her like blades to her neck”
“his presence filled each corner of the rooms and reverberated off the walls, squeezing Rebecca.”
"Mr. Phelan works in mysterious ways." Establishing him with god-like absolute powers.
“He had her as a minnow on a hook”
By this time the danger is palpable and what follows isn’t so much a surprise as an unveiling of something already suspected.
You mention that readers have misinterpreted this chapter as pointing to Rebecca being gang-raped by her teachers. I think this is because the odd way in which Rebecca brings up the question of “colleagues” and then explicitly mentions teachers. I’m not sure why she would think that. It seems clear that Phelan intends to prostitute her, but it should be equally clear that her teachers would be the last people who could feasibly be involved with this.
In this context, can you clarify for me what your take on the legal situation is? I see you are in the UK, but there might be a difference between Scotland and the rUK. In Scotland it would definitely be a no-no for a teacher to be involved with a dependent minor, and while the age of consent is sixteen, the situation is different where an adult is in a position of responsibility (as a teacher is) for a person under eighteen. It would be a criminal offence for Phelan or indeed any of Rebecca’s teachers, to have any kind of sexual interactions with her. I cannot even see how Phelan could invite her to live in his house; that would be considered totally inappropriate.
The brief scene with Dan Waters is excellent. I like the reference to Oedipus, which together with the earlier Antigone comment is building towards a Greek tragedy theme. Bittersweet to think that he lost his wife years ago and never took up with anyone new.
| Virtuella chapter 4 . 4/5
I like the opening paragraph with Mr Water’s consideration about what to do regarding Rebecca. It is good that he retains the memory of his own teenage struggles and that this helps him to be sensitive towards his students. (Though it would be good to see him have some concerns for students other than Rebecca…) It is so easy for adults to forget how tough it is to be teenage.
The scene in the car is well handled, low key and subtle. I liked the description of the rain.
The situation between Rebecca and her brother comes to a crisis in rather a shocking way. I had expected him to be cold and negligent, but not that he would physically attack her. I bet she didn’t expect it either. No wonder she feels poisoned.
“It was the difference between mousse and orange juice” This is an excellent sentence that highlights the difference in the two men. Interesting to see that Rebecca apparently plumps for mousse over juice.
| Virtuella chapter 3 . 4/2
The opening of this chapter is nicely humorous with the geriatric radio and the phone willing to commit suicide, and yet there is a tinge of sadness. Rebecca’s life seems sad, in an unspectacular, boring way that makes me feel for her.
I really liked the descriptions of the school disco, they are very vivid. Good image of Rebecca feeling like the middle ball in a Newtons’ Cardle. And I loved this sentence: “Even Rebecca felt the melody meld with her skin and the beat beating like it was breaking her heart.” You have a lot of excellent imagery, another ggod example is, “like she was a sliver of ice that would melt if he breathed too hard”
Content-wise this chapter is really alarming. Male middle-aged teachers commenting on a teenage girl’s look at a dance, let alone suggesting that she should move in with them! How could Mr Phelan suggest such a thing in earnest? If Rebecca took up the offer, his job would be for the chopper! Not to mention the media being all over the case.
Can you clarify something for me? I don’t understand why the head of a high school English department is in a position to give massive loans. What’s the background here? Or are we going to find out more about this later? I remember you mentioning some kind of epiphany in the previous chapter, but I was puzzled at the time as well.
| Virtuella chapter 2 . 3/31
Rebecca’s background story is very interesting. The tension in her relationship with her brother is well handled. We suddenly get a completely different perspective on her, not Mr Waters’ idealised view, but an image of unexpected hardship and loneliness, which is beautifully captures in the sentence, “When a girl lost her mom and dad the flow of encouragement ebbed.” I liked how you compared Tom’s faith in “The Market” with an obscure religious cult, which is probably closer to the truth than most people would be comfortable to acknowledge.
I am enjoying the way you portray your characters, leisurely, tenderly, in a way that is captivating but never in-the-face. The last paragraph is a good example of this.
And I very much like your prose style. Here are some of my favourite expression from this chapter:
“like she was some mangy pigeon inside his newly vacuumed car.” (Illuminates their relationship with one stroke)
“She watched naked tree branches outside hurl through her other ghost face.” (Very well observed)
“Her room had slanted walls that folded down on her.” (The claustrophobia is palpable)
“when two people lived under a roof that groaned in moderate rain, there was only so much anger they could afford to take out on each other.” (God way of expressing how precarious their relationship is)
“people who'd been losing money on parent subsidized lemonade stands.” (Nice touch of humour.)
“She beamed with the ferocity of thunderclouds in a summer storm” (Lovely oxymoron)
| Virtuella chapter 1 . 3/30
I found the opening passage really mesmerising. It is so well written, with such good rhythm. The repetition of “sometimes” and of “and yet” is very effective. I loved the simile of the dandelion seed, it shows Rebecca as being one among many, but also as being fragile, delicate, beautiful and laden with potential. That likes in well with “radiant with the possibilities of their youth.”
“she crossed his mind more often than she crossed his path.” That is neatly worded, and suggest quite some obsession, given that a teacher can expect to see his students pretty much every day.
The comparison with Antigone and with “the fall” (is double meaning, as in autumn but also as the biblical Fall, intended?) introduces an element of foreshadowing that I find fascinating.
If Dan has a callus on his THUMB from holding the pen, then he is holding it wrong. With correct pencil grasp, the callus should be on the side of his middle finger.
“I wanted a little more from your body—“ Now, that is clever, of course, but as a teacher I will say that he is not giving her good feedback. She is quite right to come back and ask exactly what that’s supposed to mean.
I like how you contrast the “hot” but incompetent teacher with Mr Waters, who seems to be the perfect teacher, the one we’d all have wanted to be taught by, the one those of us in the profession would like to BE.
“How are you was the pinball of etiquette” Well observed, and haven’t we all been there?
It’s a very engaging first chapter and I am looking forward to reading more.
| faerie-gumdrops chapter 12 . 2/22
Eee, it has been way too long!
Ooh, so if this is the conclusion to the first plot arc, can’t wait to see what the next one will involve :). Thinking back, so much has happened in these twelve chapters, and I think it’s awesome the way you’ve managed to combine that plotty stuff (e.g. all the stuff with Phelan) with quite heavy introspection.
The dream was gorgeously visual, and yeah I think that Rebecca did seem somehow different with how she is in real life. I like too how it reflects the difference between maybe how she appears on the outside, and how she perceives herself. Worked really well, I think with the fact that the majority of this chapter is Rebecca’s POV – we’re surrounded by all of her thoughts, so it’s a great contrast you’ve created. Also love how heavily Sophie features with Dan. His feelings for Rebecca clearly don’t cancel out those he still has for Sophie. It’s realistic, and you can tell how deeply he must be grieving.
Ari and Hannah seem sweet, I guess? I love all of Ari’s ambition, and how she jokes about being short and flat :). I like the mix of them being friendly, but Rebecca still feeling a little peripheral (e.g. how she doesn’t want to drink, and how she has no idea how to deal with hung over people).
Ooh yeah and Phelan details! Love the introduction of stuff with Rebecca’s mother. Curiouser and curiouser!