Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why isn't Everyone Talking about Harry Quebert?

I was going to be alone this past weekend and had planned nothing more ambitious than binge watching the last season of Downton Abbey. But, along came my neighbor with a book that she was returning to the library. She said it was her favorite so far this year. Well, the gauntlet was thrown. I snatched it up, got comfy in the swing, and burned through this six hundred page monster in three days. I didn't lose patience until about fifty pages from the end so I guess that's saying something!

And who is the author Joel Dicker anyway? Here's an into: http://joeldicker.com/ It's interesting to note that this novel was written in French and was a huge hit overseas. The book has taken a lot of negative hits on Amazon but I think the English translation is spot on and the plot is so convoluted that I defy you to tell me it doesn't hold your interest.

Book lovers will fall hard for this mystery which revolves around not one, but two writers - the most unreliable narrators in the world. (Remember that) Harry Quebert is the master, the teacher, who has written the "great American novel," and Marcus Goldman is the student who emulates him. Marcus has had an early success, much like his mentor, but is now plagued with writer's block. He decides that only Harry can help him overcome the stagnation and he happily accepts Harry's offer to come spend some time at Harry's home on the beach in New Hampshire.

Harry is an impossibly gullible and trusting man, supposedly so lonely that he'll open his home to anyone. It's not long before Marcus is snooping around and inadvertently comes upon a box laden with photographs of a young Harry with a much younger (under age) girl. Caught in the act, Marcus asks Harry to explain and then we're off and running. A doomed affair back in the summer of '75 has left Harry in relationship limbo for over thirty years.

Now, here is where you must simply give up all logic and go with the flow. It's well worth it, it's fun, and no sense spoiling the ride with those rude questions that deep readers ask, like, "how could this be?" Let's just say that a gardening project goes awry, a body is found on Harry's property and, lo and behold, the bones belong to the fifteen year old love of Harry's life, Nola. Harry is immediately arrested for Nola's death and Marcus becomes an overnight private eye sensation as he works to clear his friend's name.

Throughout the book, you'll meet a laundry list of absolutely crazy characters who certainly don't resemble anyone from my small New England town but, hey, who knows what goes on behind those closed doors? Oh, wait, now that I think about it....the police officer with the crush on the beauty queen who owns the diner, who had a crush on Harry and was thrown over for a fifteen-year-old. Then there's the kind minister, Nola's father, with the violent temper, and the disfigured chauffeur with a penchant for painting nude women. At some point each one of these folks will be a suspect.

When all is said and done, this is also a laughable send up of the publishing industry, the ridiculous multi-million dollar book deals, the press leaks, the pressure on young writers to live up to their own hype, and the back biting among agents, publishers, and those chomping at the bit for film rights.

Yes, it could have used better editing. Yes, there were points of repetition that got on my nerves, though I'll confess I thought it was done deliberately to make a point. Still, I could NOT put this book down until I had solved the mystery - and no, I never did. For pure camp, you really should give "The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair" a go. Oh, and if you've already read it, drop me a line and let me know if I'm crazy to be touting it.


Anonymous said...


The author was at the Librarian's Dinner before BEA and the book has been in my To Be Read pile since then. The author was a great speaker and I do plan on reading it. When I have time. Someday.


Sallyb said...

Hey Lori, What a cutie. Was he well received? Let's see...when you have time...you mean, when you retire? ;-)

Gloria Drake said...

I read this 2 months ago and found it really refreshing. It is a bit too lengthy, but it is quite fast-paced. Most of the reviews echo yours in that everyone keeps saying they don't why this is a great book, but everyone should read it. I agree. Fun to see a new author emerge. -Gloria

Sallyb said...

Thanks for the input Gloria. Refreshing is a great way to describe it. So many novels seem practically interchangeable to me lately but this one had a delightful originality to it.