cover image The Instructor

The Instructor

Ann Ireland. Ecco Press, $23 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-88001-537-0

Following her praised debut (A Certain Mr. Takahashi), Ireland fashions a sober novel of first love and its inevitable disenchantment. Though it is written in the second-person as Simone Paris, now 25, addresses the story to Otto Guest, her former art teacher and lover, the narrative is active and reflective by turns, with passages of lively dialogue succeeded by poignant questions that Simone asks herself. Overcoming the objections of a xenophobic father and souffle-cooking mother, 19-year-old Simone departs her Canadian home for Mexico with 45-year-old Otto, an uncompromising, charismatic artist whom Simone loves as both a mentor and a man. Otto is burdened with an estranged wife and teenage son. Once in Mexico, it initially appears that the sheltered Simone has bitten off more than she can chew. ""Is it possible to love without confining the loved one?"" the seemingly exotic and free-spirited Otto wonders. However, Otto teaches his pupil too well, and as the chinks in his armor begin to show, Simone's own discovery of self pushes him farther and farther from the center of her life. Ireland's slim book about learning to see the world for yourself is well-crafted, although at times her characters do take themselves, their art and their emotions too seriously. While readers are unlikely to view Otto's purported charms in the same rose-colored light as Simone does, they will believe that, at 19, Simone had reason to-and that, at 25, she has reason to let go and to explain herself to Otto. (Apr.)