Everyone has a secret in this fabulous, heart-warming read from Australian author, Suzanne Leal.

‘The Teacher’s Secret’ is contemporary fiction with the story set in a small fictional coastal town called Brindle and centered around the town’s primary school. It is just the book to while away a few hours in front of the fire with a hot chocolate and I was surprised by how quickly I read this 400-plus page novel.

The story is broken into the four terms that make up an Australian school year. The chapters themselves offer perspectives from seven different characters. Each character intersects with Brindle Primary School and it seems every character is running from or trying to come to terms with a secret in their past. The characters are engaging, appealing and cover a mix of ages, culture, and background.

The new Principal of Brindle Primary, Laurie Mathews, is a do-gooder who turns out to be the vile archetype villain of the story and who ousts popular teacher, Terry Pritchard, from Brindle Primary. Laurie Mathews is by far the character we know least about and are least invested in.

The children of Brindle Primary bind the cast and stories contained within the novel. Although they are central to the story, it is the adults and their trials that have our sympathies rather than the children.

I had tears in my eyes at the end of this book and I won’t tell you if they were of joy or sadness. However, it was obvious from the text, that Suzanne Leal really cared about her characters and her delight in them lifts off the pages.

‘The Teacher’s Secret’ is a modern tale which deals with complex issues of asylum seeking, child protection, family-breakdown, grief, commitment, loyalty, and self-belief. Leal prods readers to consider such issues and to note the importance of community within a small town. Where should boundaries be drawn between authorities and individuals and care providers/educators and children? Has political correctness gone mad? These are the questions Leal has readers consider.

I congratulate Suzanne Leal on a beautifully written book. I thoroughly enjoyed this feel-good read and believe it will be a perfect book for discussion within book clubs.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for providing this copy.

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