Suzanne Leal explores domestic drama at the Newcastle Writers Festival

Suzanne Leal’s second novel The Teacher’s Secret is a fantastically complex novel masquerading as an easy read. It is a book about community that tackles almost every issue a community today could face. There is love, affairs, divorce (not necessarily in that order), immigration, grief and then there is the secret….

The novel is set around a primary school in a coastal town much like the one the author lives in. As a parent who lives in a tight knit community Suzanne Leal finds the dynamic of a school fascinating “the interaction between children and adults, between parents, with teachers”, these interactions are the foundation of the story. The novel follows the lives of the children, parents and teachers at Brindle Public School and manages to delve into some of the toughest issues faced by society today, all while exploring the every day humdrum of school drop offs and end of year concerts. 

Brindle Public School is the center of the story. There is a new principal with new rules, there are long standing teachers who don’t appreciate the change in management, there are children and parents dealing with sensitive domestic issues and there is a family that is new to Brindle, having fled from dangers in their home town.

Suzanne’s experience as a member of the Refugee Review Tribunal offers insight to the plight of people seeking refuge in our country. Suzanne understands that the “uncertainty of not knowing whether you will be able to stay in Australia or not must be excruciating”. A timely reminder that immigration is not a simple issue to be used to create political slogans and click bait headlines.

The exploration of domestic drama in this book is painfully accurate, and is something you can see Suzanne discuss at the Newcastle Writers Festival. Suzanne’s own experience of once being a single parent with three young children lends compassion to the writing around the roller-coaster of emotions and hardship a recently single mother endures “there can still be, I think, a sense of shame associated with being a single mother, there were times when I certainly felt I had failed because my marriage had collapsed”.

This is a book about community. Brindle is a melting pot with drama bubbling just beneath the surface. The book is full of characters that will be familiar to you and some you may wish you knew. The secret is integral to the story but does not overtake the rest of the narrative and more importantly, the reveal is well paced.

Suzanne’s writing is clever and captivating, her book is incredibly well structured and surprisingly witty. The Teacher’s Secret is a book for anyone who has lived in a community or has been to a school. To get a signed copy of the book make sure you get to one of Suzanne’s events.



Exploring the impact of violence.

With Sarah Armstrong, Emily Maguire and Michael Sala.

Host / Suzanne Leal

Free session


Exploring domestic drama.

With Sarah Armstrong, Meredith Jaffé, and Suzanne Leal.

Host / Anneli Knight

Free session


I’m looking forward to my events – I admire the writers I’m appearing with and look forward to our conversations.  I’m also looking forward to the opening party and also to these events (although, really, everything looks great):

Book launch – The Restorer

Scheduled: 8 Apr 2017, 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Location: Watt Space Gallery cnr Auckland & King Streets Newcastle

Two Worlds The relationship between heritage and identity. With Deng Adut, Roanna Gonsalves and Alice Pung. Host / Ruby Hamad

Scheduled: 9 Apr 2017, 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM

Location: Concert Hall City Hall Newcastle

Getting Even: The Politics of Resentment 1.15pm-2.15pm Jonathan Biggins, Charles Firth, George Megalogenis, Chris Uhlmann, Host Paul Scott

Scheduled: 9 Apr 2017, 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM

Location: Concert Hall City Hall Newcastle

Songs of a War Boy Deng Adut with Felicity Biggins Civic Theatre Newcastle

Scheduled: 9 Apr 2017, 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Written by Kelly Barlow

Kelly is a long time foodie, she has cooked, written, published and produced all in the name of food. You can find and contact her at @regionalfoodi