Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Review by Christina Boyd: When a seventeen-year-old schoolboy, Kim, at one of Britain's most extraordinary institutions, Eton College, falls in love with his new piano teacher, the young and beautiful India, one might think this is a sweet coming-of-age romance. But as we witness the growing attraction between the twenty-three year old and her student, see that no good can come of this, realize their life can never to be the same. Such a taboo topic but quite a page turner. Kim and India gamble it all to have an illicit affair!
Not quite a man but still an innocent teen, Kim’s patience is unchecked and he lacks the understanding/experience of an adult relationship, never having been in love or even had sex before—and his jealous emotions simmer always just below the surface. As our reliable narrator, he never holds back his feelings or thoughts from the reader and admits: “Because my story is not just about love and sex, but also how I sowed the seeds of my own self-destruction and how I created a fertile breeding ground for my incipient jealousy.” At once, we know there will be no happy ending here.
We know that India, as the person in authority, should know better and never allow a flirtation between a teacher and student, never acknowledge their attraction, never allow their emotions to come to fruition. From the very first moments, their dialog is rife with innuendo, intentional or not: “‘Being a teenager is much underestimated.’ She turns around, her eyes sparkling moist. ‘Shall I tell you the best thing of all about being young? It’s being able to indulge your passions.’” Can she really be talking about piano practice?
And just like watching a car crash in slow motion, we witness this terrible mistake—a heady, passionate romance grow into love—nothing we can do, and yet, cannot look away. I wanted to shake India, remind her of her responsibility as a teacher, as an adult, all the while torn thinking “had they only met a few years later, age wouldn’t mean as much.” Because in my preferred fiction of rainbows, sweet champagne, and puppies, I am always for the happily-ever-after, like India muses: “One day, when we have our own house in the country, we’ll have a whole menagerie.”
The ending is explosive—almost wraps too fast after the long detailing of life as a student at the prestigious boys school—with possibly a nod to the tragic love affair in the film “An Affair to Remember.” The novel left me yearning for an alternate ending. If only they had...if only he had...if only... But like life, the rash and impassioned choices we make as young people are not always wise, lasting a lifetime of regret and full of what ifs.
Bravo to author William Coles for this thoughtful, dark, evocative coming-of-age novel. The Eton Affair will likely haunt me for days.
Rated MATURE: Some nudity and provocative sex.