"Those of us who love Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie will now have to make room next to it on our shelves for Joshua Gaylord's winning debut." —Brock Clarke, author of An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England
"Hummingbirds positively glistens with erudition and insight. Whether writing about prep school girls or the adult men who walk among them, Gaylord's stunning writing elevates his subject matter with equal parts humanity and elegance." —Jonathan Tropper, author of This Is Where I Leave You
In the tradition of Francine Prose's Blue Angel, Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, and Alan Bennett's The History Boys, Joshua Gaylord's Hummingbirds reveals the intertwining—and darkly surprising—relationships between secretive students and teachers at an all-girls prep school in New York City.
The Carmine-Casey prep school girls flutter through Gaylord's debut, but they're not alone; their teachers are insecure flirts and cheats amid divorces and trysts. One such teacher is Leo Binhammer, whose wife, Sarah Lewis, had a brief affair two years ago with Carmine-Casey's newest teacher, the charismatic Ted Hughes. When Binhammer realizes the connection, he keeps it to himself, and before long, Ted, a reckless romantic, charms Binhammer into an unusual friendship. Meanwhile, student Dixie Doyle and her peers lounge outside the school in their pleated skirts, emanating Lolita-like "accidental sexuality." Binhammer, who is unapologetic about his attraction to the students, tries to connect with Liz Warren, the playwright in his class, before Ted charms her. Similarly competitive, Liz and Dixie vie for attention from the few adult men around the school, and the complicated web of loyalties, attraction, competition and camaraderie provides much tension as things play out but not in an expected way. While the narration takes some getting used to there are many personalities and points-of-view at play Gaylord's tale of overeducated men and the teenage students who exhibit the finesse and understanding their teachers lack hits all the right notes.