Stuart, Sebastian. “The Hour Between”, Concord ePress, 2011.
Set in the 1960s, “The Hour Between” is about teens who go to Spooner, a private school in Connecticut that is run by the Christian Science religion. The school specializes in working with the “disciplinary challenged”. I knew right away that this was a book I would enjoy simply because one of my first teaching jobs was at a school like this which was run by Christian Brothers and it was a place where wealthy New Orleans parents sent their screwed up sons to get them out the way. The pretense of helping turn the boy into a man was there but I never saw it happen. Ah, but that’s another story and I understand that many of those Christian Brothers are not doing time for helping those boys to help them relieve sexual tension.
Arthur MacDougall had been thrown out of his previous school and comes to Spooner where he meets Katrina Felt whose mother is a famous actress. Katrina also considers herself to be an actress and she often tries out for roles. Arthur is gay and he has to deal with that as well as with his friendship with Katrina.
There are drugs all over Spooner and the student body seems zonked most of the time and this causes teachers to be strict. Arthur and his roommate were caught possessing and selling marijuana but he does not really use anything except that time he tried LSD. He is, however, aware of Katrina’s drug dependency especially when she is cast in a Broadway musical. He can also tell when she is real and when she is acting. It does not make a difference to him as he is totally devoted to her.
Arthur is expected to spend Christmas vacation with his parents and his sister, Anne, (the family’s social conscience) in Trinidad and his mother lets him know that his father has a big announcement to make. It turns out that family finances are not so good and Arthur understands that he will have to find a summer job and then work his way through college. (Once again I am reminded of the elite of New Orleans who because they possess the family name are thought to be the leaders of elegant society. I knew several girls whose parents had to mortgage their homes in order to pay for the white gown the girls were expected to wear for their debuts).
Arthur’s father made his announcement as if he was embarrassed to tell his family about not having money but Arthur accepted the situation and returned to Spooner and remained aloof from the realities of the family situation. Arthur deals with the status quo and his only real act of rebellion is telling his parents that he is gay but there is no real reaction from them.
Spooner, to me, was a joke of a school—on one hand it was rather permissive toward its students and there did not seem to be much discipline used on those who needed it. Arthur made friends there rather quickly and he was smitten with Katrina, a girl with a dark secret. Because Katrina’s parents were so dysfunctional and disinterested in her, Arthur began to appreciate his own social climbing wannabe upper-class parents. Katrina encourages him to explore his sexuality and he and his friends test their teachers. What we really see is that Spooner was a place where everything could and usually did happen. It is an interesting view of the Christian Science religion which I always thought was rather strict.
We see everything through the eyes of Arthur McDougal who has his ups and downs with fellow students. While Arthur’s confidence grows, his friend, Katrina is pulled down by the heartbreaking secrets and sorrows of her past. When school ends that year, their lives will be changed forever.
I do not want to say any more about the plot because to do so would be to spoil a read but I will say that their is some fine writing here. I do think the whole boarding school them has run its course and we have not seen much of it in literature lately. I am not sure whether or not that is a good thing.