Melissa Nathan wrote only a few books before her early death from cancer but The Learning Curve is, like the others, well put together and a very satisfying read.
Nicky is a teacher at a primary school in London. She loves her job and is good at it too. She cares about all her children and is distressed that one boy has such an uncaring father and is left to the care of paid employees. She also has the opportunity to show how well she can teach and manage with an opportunity to become the new headteacher. Her ex-boyfriend is also in the running for the job but he is supportive of her application and she is sure that together they will make a great team even though he wants to get back together again and is encouraging her to give up her job in favour of having babies.
Mark works in the city because he wants his son Oscar to have a good example and to have everything he needs in life. He thinks that his son’s teacher is interfering and irrelevant. He doesn’t have time for anything much, tends to forget his promises and thinks that throwing money at problems will resolve them.
You can mostly, if you’ve read a few “women’s fiction” books, work out what happens next but the author draws you along with her. The joy of this book for me is that Nicky’s job is real and that you understand the pressures on her and how it affects her life choices and even how she spends he money and her time. Many of the books I read where someone has a profession ignore the fact that a full time job takes up a lot of your time and emotional energy and leaves you little ability to do much else.
The characters in this book are slightly exaggerated. The current headteacher is very eccentric. Nicky is often a bit too unrealistic and dreamy to be the great teacher that she is said to be. Mark is a little too perfect and his ability to change his life around is possibly unrealistic. I don’t think that any of this matters, however, because the book is warmhearted and engaging and I enjoyed it a lot.