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April 2015

Laurinda (Alice Pung)

I remember being a girl in high school.  The constant worry of what others thought of you, the fear of speaking up in case what you say was ridiculed, the conflicting desires of fitting in yet also standing out, the desire to achieve and compete whilst casually pretending you couldn't care less.  It all boiled down to the struggle between who you thought you should be, and who you actually were.  Of course you didn't know that at the time.  Reading Laurinda brings all these thoughts back to the foreground, and sadly reminds me that the struggles of school life don't seem to have changed much.

Laurinda is a novel set in the fictional all-girls school named, unsurprisingly, Laurinda.  It follows the narrative of Lucy Lam, a Chinese-Vietnamese immigrant who earned the inaugural "Equal Access" scholarship, and soon discovers that surviving Laurinda has little to do with academics and achievement, but more to do with politics, power, fear and true identity.  The novel's author, Alice Pung, drew on real experience to create the Laurinda environment, thus making Lucy's narrative an excellent catalyst for re-living all those wonderful memories of school.  It's sharp depiction of privileged private school life breaks through the thin veneer of accomplishment, manners and societal success that most of these schools work so hard to maintain.  As the novel progresses, Lucy discovers that as long as you appear to be all these things, that's all that matters.  How you come to, or maintain that appearance, is not so important.

Why do the memories of our school years seem to play out more vividly than other life experiences? Is it teenage hormones that make those times more pungent and cloying?  I guess I am letting my little paddle up memory creek get away from me here, but I blame the book.  Laurinda that has done it to me.  If you feel like wading through those old school memories again - I would definitely give Laurinda a read.


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