The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair – Joël Dicker

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It’s been an incredibly busy couple of months, but, as all book lovers can attest, there is always time for reading. However, when I started hearing all the hype about The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affairin spite of my natural desire to read it as soon as possible, there was a moment of despair when I realised I was embarking on a 624 page epic. Don’t get me wrong – I love big books, and they’ve certainly had their time to shine recently what with the mighty Luminaries and Goldfinch – but sometimes that weighty hardback is the last thing you want to lug around, especially when you’re flying home to Guernsey with hand-luggage-only!

ANYWAY.

Let’s just say, those extra kgs added to my suitcase were well worth it, and this book was such an easy and fast-paced read that I hardly noticed it’s size (except for when I attempted to read it in the pool – that counts as an arm exercise, right?)

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The story follows Marcus Goldman, a writer who, following the highs of his bestselling debut novel, soon feels the pressure as he attempts to pen its successor. In an attempt to relieve his writer’s block, he journeys to Somerset, New Hampshire, to reunite with the eponymous character and Goldman’s literary master and inspiration, Harry Quebert. But it transpires that Quebert’s significant role in Goldman’s ascendancy to writing fame will develop even further to be the very subject of his next novel.

A thirty-three year old cold case – the disappearance of fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan – is brought to the forefront of police, and quickly, national, attention upon the discovery of her body in Quebert’s garden. When Quebert’s intimate relationship with the young girl is uncovered during investigations, it is up to Goldman alone to prove his friend’s innocence. Solving the case and finally breaking free of writer’s block soon merge into one, but words on a page can have significant implications on its real-life subjects, and it is clear that the Harry Quebert-Nola Kellergan affair, is not all that New Hampshire has concealed in its past…

As I previously mentioned, I was drawn to this book by the incredible amount of publicity it had received across the world: not only has it been translated into 32 languages, sold over 2 million copies in a year and won three French literary prizes, it has also had stand-out reviews and been compared with numerous literary greats. Impressive. These comparisons, however, have sometimes proved to be more damaging as its reviews multiplied – this book should not be linked with Nabokov’s Lolita due to the illicit relationship that it centres on, nor does Dicker really match the likes of Philip Roth – it is a standout thriller that is both gripping and entertaining and certainly is worthy of all its attention but no more.

My outbursts of ‘oh my gosh!’ and ‘another twist?!’ certainly got people around me interested, and so they should be – this is a great summer read (if you can bear to hold it above your head for long) and I thoroughly recommend it. Literary masterpiece it is not, but sometimes that isn’t what you want. As well-read of high quality literature as bookish people intend to be, there are times where you just want to sit down, get into a book really easily, polish it off in a few sittings (only 2 for me!) and move on. That’s the truth. I’ve already passed this book on for these reasons and there’s no shame in that. I look forward to reading more of Dicker’s work and hope that people reading this will give The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair a read – it looks like a daunting challenge but you’ll be racing through in no time. It’s just what a thriller should be.

– Franny

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