A Little Rebellion Is a Good Thing: Troubles at Traymore College

Written by Duncan Clarke
Review by Sally Zigmond

1969. David Pritchard has great plans for his future and takes up employment as a political science professor at Traymore women’s college in southwestern Virginia as a brief stepping stone. He soon finds that all is not well. President Barton is old-fashioned, misogynistic, and an autocrat. Pritchard’s female students soon come to confide in him their problems both academic and personal, and when Pritchard stands up for his female students, President Barton makes life at college almost impossible. When Pritchard finds several allies among other staff members, the battle lines are drawn.

Then Pritchard falls in love with a mature, already married student and makes an enemy of her estranged and violent husband, who makes several attempts on his life. What starts as life in academia becomes a fast-paced thriller.

I chose to read this novel because, as a Brit, I was interested to see what life was like in the U.S. at the time. I was shocked to find that in many parts of the union, the Sixties never happened. Where were the anti-Vietnam protests, the race riots, Woodstock, or hippies? Clarke depicts a country that has been sharply divided ever since the Civil War, accounting for the deep partisanship today. Clarke proves that historical fiction can inform as well as entertain and as such, and part of the novel’s interest is its basis in events at a real college.