Book No 15 (2016) : The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair

Harry QuebertLike most people, before I learned to drive I had to use public transport – trains and buses. My bus-riding days were before the advent of digital signage and the Internet, so if your bus didn’t turn up at the allotted time, you just had to wait. Sometimes for five minutes, sometimes for an hour. This always posed a dilemma: did you stand there for an unspecified length of time, investing in waiting and hoping for something exciting to come along. Or did you cut your losses and start walking, hoping that you would get home before the bus passed you en route? Reading Joel Dicker’s novel reminded me of that predicament.

Marcus Goldman is a successful author, having been mentored by his College tutor and erstwhile friend, Harry Quebert. Harry is himself the writer of a best-selling novel, entitled ‘The Origin of Evil‘. The title is somewhat mysterious, as the book is a love story, recounting the passion of a thirty-four year old man for a fifteen-year old girl. When Marcus begins to experience writer’s block while trying to craft his second novel, he invites himself to Harry Quebert’s home in Somerset, New Hampshire. A few days after Marcus’ departure from Somerset, a sensational story hits the news; the body of 15 year-old Nola Kellargan has been unearthed from Harry’s garden, 33 years after she disappeared. Harry is arrested and charged, but Marcus is convinced of his friend’s innocence. He returns to New Hampshire where he takes on the investigation of the case, to clear Harry Quebert’s name.

This book is long at 614 paperback pages, so not one you can dash off in a few hours. And it is soooooo slow. The text was originally written in French (Dicker is Swiss) and maybe that accounts for the simplistic, wooden dialogue which seems to ascribe Harry with the same vocabulary as that of his teenage muse. The relationship between Harry and Nola stretches belief to breaking point and there are also so many plot holes you could strain vegetables through the pages of this book. It sort of comes together in last ten pages or so, as the author reveals the perpetrators of Nola’s murder.

I got about a third of the way through this novel and was tired of waiting for something to appear, something which would transport me somewhere more interesting. But the more time I invested in reading it, the more reluctant I was to give up on that investment. Spurred on by Simon Mayo’s endorsement (he called it “the book of the year”), I carried on. It was the wrong decision. Take my advice; if you are waiting at the Harry Quebert bus stop, start walking. Get out of there as soon as you can. It just isn’t worth the wait.


4 thoughts on “Book No 15 (2016) : The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair

  1. Pat June 20, 2016 / 9:41 pm

    Hi Nicki, I read this book a couple of years ago in French, (did I say read? In fact I listened to the audio book) I enjoyed this but will admit that it is a slow burner and I did pick up a comment similar to yours on my blog. Good luck with your fifty books, it’s been about my rate too since I started my blog


    • inthenickioftime June 20, 2016 / 10:08 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Pat. I did wonder whether the book lost something in translation, sominterested to hear that you listened to it in its original language. I can’t get on with audio books at all!

      • Pat June 20, 2016 / 10:30 pm

        I listen to them during my daily commute (40 mins each way), took me a little while to get used to it but now I look forward to my drive

      • inthenickioftime June 20, 2016 / 10:31 pm

        Now there’s an idea – I usually listen to drivel on the radio, but with 40 minutes each way, like you I could make inroads into an audiobook. I may revisit the idea, thanks!

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