It is so wonderful to have one of our favourite authors back on the podcast. This week, I speak with the wonderful Petronella McGovern about her latest book – The Good Teacher. We met Petronella earlier in the year when she chatted with me about her fist book – Six Minutes – which has just been nominated for a 2019 Ned Kelly Crime Writing Award! You can find that episode here.
From a very early age, Petronella McGovern always had her head stuck in a book – either reading one or writing her own stories. When she was growing up on a farm outside Bathurst, her stories featured talking animals and mysteries to solve – thanks to the influences of Beatrix Potter, as well as The Famous Five. Petronella has worked in marketing and communications, co-written two non-fiction books and published her debut (and best-selling) novel Six Minutes last year.
Applauded by Liane Moriarty as “Impossible to put down and full of twists and turns you won’t see coming!” Six Minutes is about every parents worst nightmare, when a three year old child goes missing.
Petronella is fascinated by people – what makes us tick, how we view the world, and the lies we tell others and ourselves. She’s interested in the complexities of relationships and the dynamics in families.
The Good Teacher
Staying in the suburban suspense genre, The Good Teacher follows kindergarten teacher Allison through a time of personal and professional crisis. Dealing with the unexpected collapse of her marriage, Allison becomes practically and emotionally involved with her seriously ill new student Gracie. Is her judgement seriously impaired or is she only doing what any good teacher would do?
McGovern was “editing … during the catastrophic bushfires at the beginning of 2020, and doing the final revision when the coronavirus pandemic swept the world. We’ve certainly seen the worst – and the very best – of human nature. These terrible times reinforce what a few characters say in The Good Teacher: we need kindness and a strong sense of community to take us into the future.”
About Six Minutes
Petronella was inspired to write the book after spending some time helping out in the classroom when her children were little. She found herself becoming quite attached to one particular student and really wanting to help her. It made her question why it is people help and why they get attached.
Why Alex Loved It
The book is written from 4 different perspectives: Allison, her son Felix, Luke (the father of Gracie) and Maz who works with Luke. This gives an additional level of interest to the story as not all characters are privy to the same level on information about the investigation.
Just like 6 minutes, Petronella weaves in a contemporary context to The Good Teacher which gives it such a relevance. The bushfires that raged in Australia in 2019 and 2020 are very much part of the time and place for the book. The book is also set on the Northern Beaches of Sydney and weaves in many local beaches and sites. As a Northern Sydney resident – I loved this!
The plight of the middle aged woman is also very much a part of this storyline. As children grow up, the role of the mother changes quite significantly – welcome to my world! However this transition is not always an easy time. Petronella weaves this in to the storyline so beautifully.
The book is very much a celebration of the power of community which will remind you about how well ‘us Aussies’ can rally when we are faced with a challenge.
The need to think critically online is another important message of the book. Who we choose to trust and how we decide someone is trustworthy are all questions that are so relevant for our time – particularly with so much of our lives lived online.
But mostly, this book is a reminder of the power of kindness, the power of community – so relevant for the challenging year 2020 is!
You can listen to Alex and Petronella’s chat on the podcast via your favourite podcast app, or by clicking on the link below.
Thanks so much for being part of the book club!
PS Our next book is American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins on October 16.