Cover image for School's out
School's out
Dufossé, Christophe, 1963-
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Heure de la sortie. English
Publication Information:
New York : Penguin Books, 2007.
Physical Description:
326 pages ; 19 cm
In this brilliant and surreal French thriller, a teacher commits suicide and a colleague takes over his class of strangely unsettling children. A novel that skates close to fantasy, it is also chillingly observant about society and the children it produces.
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A vertiginous black comedy by one of France's most exciting new novelists

Winner of France's most prestigious prize for a first novel, School's Out is a gripping re-imagining of Lord of the Flies, at once scarier and funnier than its prototype. When high school teacher Éric Capadis is found dead, an apparent suicide, his friend Pierre Hoffman takes over his class. The students in 9F are well behaved yet oddly menacing. Hoffman's colleagues warn him to watch out for them. But it's only when he agrees to accompany his charges on a school trip to the Normandy coast that he begins to understand the reason for their bizarre solidarity. School's Out is a triumph of nihilism and surreal wit.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In this stylish update of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, debut novelist Dufosse substitutes French middle-school classroom 9F for the isolated island setting of Golding's classic work. Substitute teacher Pierre Hoffman must take over the classroom of a teacher who has committed suicide. The students are so eerily well behaved that Hoffman's initial impression is that they were neither a class, nor a group, but a gang. Then a student who tries to warn Hoffman to turn down the assignment shows up in class bearing facial scars from a knife assault, and Hoffman begins receiving disturbing phone calls. Initial inquiries reveal that the students have been in the same class together since kindergarten, and other teachers at the school are afraid of them. As Dufosse expertly builds up a menacing atmosphere, he also reveals that the teachers' behavior is nearly as questionable as their students'. More an existential horror story than a straight thriller, with lots of strange conversations and black humor thrown in for effect, this unusual novel also recalls the work of Michel Houellebecq. --Joanne Wilkinson Copyright 2007 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Awarded the Prix Premier Roman in France, Dufossé's compelling debut portrays the uneasy divide between adult and adolescent with superb skill. In 1995, 32-year-old Pierre Hoffman, who teaches French in the quiet town of Clerval far from sophisticated Paris, takes on the history/geography class for his colleague, 25-year-old Éric Capadis, after Capadis jumps to his death while "the children of 9F" watch enigmatically. Was it suicide or murder? After Capadis's funeral, one of his students warns Hoffman not to take on the class again after the holidays: "They'll destroy you." Hoffman spies on the students' secret meetings and learns mysterious deaths have shadowed the entire class since they started school. In the end, Hoffman accompanies these strange young teens on a class trip with haunting consequences. Dufossé, himself a former teacher, sustains a terrifying feeling of dread throughout this grim thriller. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This debut novel, translated from the French, involves an unusual class of ninth graders at the Academy at Tours-Orleans. When their history teacher jumps to his death from their classroom window, young French teacher Pierre Hoffman takes over the class. Hoffman immediately senses a strange aura, as the pupils are abnormally well behaved and devoid of any feelings. After a series of disturbing events, Hoffman begins to suspect that two class leaders have a strange power over the other pupils. His suspicion is brutally confirmed during a class trip when the students hijack a bus. Despite the tragic ending, the reader feels little empathy for any of Dufosse's static characters. The action is sporadic, and Hoffman's philosophical speculations, like the belabored plot, are pointless and banal. Not recommended.-David A. Berona, Plymouth State Univ., NH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.