"Home School" by Charles Webb is the sequel to the popular novel "The Graduate," written in 1963 and made into what is now a classic film in 1967, starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft and Katherine Ross and directed by Mike Nichols.
The story focuses on 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock, a recent graduate of Massachusetts' Williams College. He goes home to Pasadena where he meets Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's business partner. When she tries to seduce him (nude scene and all), he is shocked but returns later and initiates an affair with her.
(Actually, Hoffman was 29 at the time while the allegedly much older Anne Bancroft was 35.)
When he meets her daughter, Elaine Robinson, he falls in love with her. That ends dramatically when the affair is discovered. Elaine becomes engaged to a more acceptable young man, but Benjamin can't get her out of his mind so he drives a horrendous distance to reach the church in time to stop the wedding.
He is not in time to stop it but he runs away with Elaine anyway to the accompaniment of the also famous Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack ("Mrs. Robinson" was the hit single), and the marriage is annulled.
In the past 40 years, Charles Webb has written several other novels, but none of them received similar attention. What's more he has lived an itinerant, uncertain life, often heavily in debt. Once he managed a nudist camp and he has often renounced wealth.
Now living in England at the age of 68, Webb has finally written a sequel to "The Graduate," which picks up the lives of Benjamin and Elaine 11 years later. They are living in New York to be as far from Mrs. Robinson as possible, raising two sons they are home-schooling in an era when it was against the law.
(Not so surprisingly, Webb and his wife also home-schooled their two sons in the '70s amid massive controversy. Today, home schooling is legal throughout the country. In fact, 1.1 million school-age children of the country's 50 million school-age children were home-schooled in 2003, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.)
When Elaine's mother learns of their problems, she accepts Ben's invitation to fly to New York to stay in a motel because she once kidnapped her two grandsons and Elaine has never forgiven her.
The book is dialogue-driven and reads quickly, with heavy sarcasm and flashes of wit. After the school principal insists the boys return to school, Mrs. Robinson (now known as Nan) seduces him, and Ben later presents him with a video in return for a truce.
But the story isn't over. Benjamin builds a guest room in the basement for Nan, and when he realizes she has no plans to return to her California home, he invites an offbeat hippy couple who gave them the idea to home-school their kids to come and stay in their home. The purpose is to drive the mother-in-law away but Elaine is repelled by the couple while her mother makes friends with them.
The conclusion reveals that Mrs. Robinson will never stop seducing men, nor will she stop taking off her clothes. The mother-in-law comes close to destroying Ben's and Elaine's marriage. (It is worth noting that there was also a Mrs. Robinson-type of character in Webb's youth, but he has not elaborated about her.)
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