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Sunday 14 April 2013

Escape from the Big Green Button by Clara Harland


If you want to know all about TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), then this book tells you a good deal about it. Whether this worked as a novel, I’m not so sure. 

Emma is a post-graduate spanning the gap between university and finding her career path with boring, mundane office jobs with nothing more interesting than mind-numbing clerical duties like filing and endless hours at the photo-copier (the source of that Green Button). After an I’ve seriously got to change my life moment, she embarks on a TEFL course in Prague, Czech Republic, where she meets a motley crew of both teacher trainees and ‘guinea-pig’ students. She then returns to the UK to put her training into practice and finds herself in charge of an unruly group of cheeky Italian teenagers. And then there’s the rather gorgeous Xavi… 

This book can be divided into two halves, the first where Emma makes some firm plans to embark on and complete her course, then the second when she uses her training. I found the first half very interesting, but the second half was just a little ‘stretched’: I wanted something exciting to happen. Emma and Xavi’s will they won’t they wasn’t quite enough to keep me captivated. The book needs a professional editing eye: apart from some grammatical and punctuation errors, the author has a tendency to write long, convoluted sentences with little punctuation. I almost found myself out of breath as I read! 

That said, Clara has used her own TEFL experiences to create an authentic and very credible setting. A perfect example of ‘write what you know’. I gained a fascinating insight to the workings of the TEFL programme in a witty and entertaining way, and I can confidently say that I learnt something. Emma has a lot of mileage as a character: she’s young, hard-working, committed and funny, and I can (just about) remember being in that post-graduate wasteland, which makes her all the more believable. 

A good book to learn about TEFL. A compelling novel: not so much.

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