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Mikhael Aroni
My English Teacher and I

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

They all want their English to be perfect, but can a teacher help? All of them live in London. All of them want to belong. Some want to blend in. Others to stand out. One is particularly clueless. A good English teacher must surely be what he needs. But he won't find the right one until he finds himself.
Aroni’s light touch and dry wit transform the weighty concerns of longing and belonging into a romantic roundelay of bemused Londoners struggling to express themselves in My English Teacher and I. His breezy debut is both a touching portrait of a nascent writer reconciling his multiple identities and a wry dissection of worldly Anglophiles who migrate to London for immersive English language classes (and the chance to warm the hearts of chilly Brits). In the first section, he introduces optimistic students in telling vignettes as they traverse the city, reveling in their love of London and its testy inhabitants. They’re a bit frustrated with their teacher, the enigmatic Michael, who may exude warmth, but maintains a careful emotional distance during one-on-one lessons.

Then one student discovers that Michael has written a roman à clef about being a rent boy. Like his fellow pupils, David believes that connecting with a native Brit will anchor his driftwood existence, but the slippery Michael upends his every attempt at stability. The middle section focuses on David, whose swirling insecurity overshadows his professional accomplishments as an English-to-French translator. Raised in Geneva, a city whose cosmopolitan image belies a provincial mindset, David looks to reinvent himself in lively London. Aroni masterfully contrasts the yearning David, seeking to uncover his true nature, with the arrogant Michael, willing to cloak himself in whatever image will get him the most attention.

The callbacks in the final section are stellar, and his characters have delicious, distinct voices. (If this were a movie, it would a PG-13 romcom, with racy dialogue but no sex sxenes.) No one does condescension with such pithy elegance as the British, such as the matronly, eccentric professor who tells David, “It’s strange…and baffling, really, how a single word…a single sound can expose one’s true nature.” A compassionate satirist, Aroni puts sophisticated naïfs in a hidebound, multicultural London where love and identity are both elusive and just within reach.

Takeaway: Romance readers seeking a contemporary comedy of manners will relish Aroni’s London, filled with eager wannabes and rakish locals.

Great for fans of: Colin MacInnes’s Absolute Beginners, Hanif Kureishi.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A-

Self-Publishing Review

"Delving into the delicate nuances of language, connection, belonging, and loss, My English Teacher and I by Mikhael Aroni is a passionate exploration of love and the complicated layers of power that inevitably exist within every person. Boasting vivid, three-dimensional characters from across the world - expats, teachers, travelers, and students - this novel offers a vulnerable peek inside the transient and challenging world of living somewhere you can't quite call home. The cover doesn't quite reflect the care and artistry inside, but the prose makes up for this, as the rich language of this novel is effortless, erudite, and evocative, resulting in a deeply rewarding read." Self-Publishing Review, ★★★★