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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

The Truth about
the Harry Quebert Affair


by
Joël Dicker


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair



Title: The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair
Author: Joël Dicker
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 641 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair - US
The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair - UK
The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair - Canada
La vérité sur l'affaire Harry Quebert - Canada
The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair - India
La vérité sur l'affaire Harry Quebert - France
Die Wahrheit über den Fall Harry Quebert - Deutschland
La verità sul caso Harry Quebert - Italia
La verdad sobre el caso Harry Quebert - España
  • French title: La vérité sur l'affaire Harry Quebert
  • Translated by Sam Taylor

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Our Assessment:

B : equal parts endearingly enthusiastic and inept

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Australian . 24/5/2014 Sophie Quick
The Economist . 19/4/2014 .
Entertainment Weekly C 21/5/2014 Darren Franich
Evening Standard C 3/6/2014 David Sexton
L'Express . 19/9/2012 Marianne Payot
Le Figaro . 19/9/2012 Marc Fumaroli
Financial Times C- 23/5/2014 Jon Day
The Guardian B 24/4/2014 Sam Leith
The Independent A- 2/5/2014 James Runcie
Independent on Sunday A- 11/5/2014 Daniel Hahn
NZZ . 10/8/2013 B.V.Heilig
The NY Times Book Rev. A 8/6/2014 Chelsea Cain
The Spectator . 28/6/2014 Andrew Taylor
The Sunday Times . 27/4/2014 Joan Smith
The Times . 3/5/2014 Melissa Katsoulis
The Washington Post B- 18/5/2014 Richard Lipez
Die Zeit A 8/8/2013 Peer Teuwsen


  Review Consensus:

  No consensus -- most agree the writing is pretty basic, but many find the twisting thriller plot redeems it; lots of question marks around the names, Americana, and the handling of the fifteen-year-old object of desire

  From the Reviews:
  • "Harry Quebert has been billed as a literary thriller but itís more of a schlocky murder mystery. Thereís nothing wrong with that, except that with the metafictional structure (the book within the book) and with Dicker taking satirical aim at the vulgar commercial imperatives of the book publishing business, thereís a heavy layer of self-consciousness to the novel. (...) The book is repetitive and sometimes staggeringly implausible. (...) But Dicker builds a satisfyingly spooky mood and there are plenty of skilfully contrived and sensational twists, right up to the final pages." - Sophie Quick, The Australian

  • "With enough plot twists to fill a truck, it is a racy read. Clever, though at times far-fetched." - The Economist

  • "(A) really, truly, wonderfully bad book filled with more than 600 pages of purple prose and nonsense twists, of dialogue ripped straight out of a Roy Lichtenstein thought balloon. (...) The plot thickens at the breakneck pace of bread rising." - Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly

  • "A literary novel, however, it ain't. The writing, especially the dialogue, is flat throughout, not to say crass. (...) The general understanding of life here, delivered in the form of sententious pronouncements about love and literature, doesn't attain the heights commanded by Jeffrey Archer." - David Sexton, Evening Standard

  • "En maestro, Dicker alterne les époques, les écrits (rapport de police, retranscription d'entretien, extrait de roman), explore l'Amérique de tous les excès -- médiatiques, littéraires, religieux --, s'interroge sur la fonction de l'écrivain... Au final, on aura passé quelques journées outre-Atlantique, rivés devant ses pages." - Marianne Payot, L'Express

  • "Roman noir, oui, roman policier sans doute, mais tout aussi bien roman psychologique à retournements haletants ou hilares, et roman de mœurs d'une actualité et d'une justesse saisissantes sur cette Amérique profonde qui se cache si bien et qui évolue de façon si déconcertante derrière les dentures parfaites que lui garantissent ses stomatologistes d'avant-garde." - Marc Fumaroli, Le Figaro

  • "I am slightly baffled, not that this novel has sold well, but that it has been received by critics so enthusiastically. For, it must be said, this is a badly written book: clunky with clichť, stuffed full of dead dialogue and populated by cartoon-like characters. (...) This isnít quite Dan Brown levels of bad writing but it runs him pretty close. (...) Dicker is a good plotter, and the final section of the book is pleasing in its revelations." - Jon Day, Financial Times

  • "I see a completely ordinary, amiably cartoonish and well aerated page-turner that does nothing interesting in literary terms at all. (...) Indeed, the tone of the whole thing -- and I mean this as a compliment -- has the pleasing spryness of one of Jessica Fletcher's outings. (...) The expository dialogue may be less clunky in the original French than in Sam Taylor's translation, but I doubt it. What the book does well is what all good thrillers should: it twists and turns." - Sam Leith, The Guardian

  • "The tale is expertly told, as unreliable information dances with necessary plot shifts and unexpected moments of catastrophe. The central mystery (what kind of a woman was Nola to infatuate a whole New England town ?) is intriguingly elusive, and the sexual tension is curiously, but pleasingly, restrained. (...) Fortunately this does not spoil an accomplished thriller." - James Runcie, The Independent

  • "The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair is a seductive read -- big, assertive and clever enough to distract from the fact that itís otherwise far more conventional than it might first seem. Dickerís uncomplicated prose canters along confidently (with translator Sam Taylor smartly keeping pace); the plotting is pleasingly intricate, if occasionally also forced (.....) Itís all well-crafted and highly enjoyable. Joël Dickerís debut novel may not be ground-breaking stuff, but once youíre inside itís pretty hard to resist all the same." - Daniel Hahn, Independent on Sunday

  • "Der Wahrheit im Titel zum Trotz spottet er jeder Wahrscheinlichkeit, trägt die Überraschungen je länger, je dicker auf und klingt, dies ein echtes Defizit, hohl, sobald er die Liebe beschwört. Man darf sich aber auch einfach mitreissen lassen vom Schwung der Erzählung. Grossstadt, Provinz, Gewaltkultur, Hinterwäldlertum, religiöse Besessenheit, amerikanische Doppelmoral packt sie mit Tempo und Witz, gelegentlich auch beissendem Spott, in einen Roman, dessen postmodernes Vexierspiel immer wieder nonchalant lebendigen Figuren in realistischen Tableaus den Vortritt lässt." - Barbara Villiger Heilig, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "(U)nimpeachably terrific. (...) Dicker spins a playful, page-≠turning whodunit, dense with suspects, multiple timelines, contradicting stories, past sins, town secrets, personal entanglements and an array of colorful (suspiciously behaving) locals (.....) If Norman Mailer had been accused of murder and Truman Capote had collaborated with Dominick Dunne on a tell-all about it, the result might have turned out something like this. Though I suspect this version may be funnier." - Chelsea Cain, The New York Times Book Review

  • "(I)tís generally unsubtle and devoid of irony. (...) (I)tís oddly readable: you find yourself suspending disbelief and turning the pages almost against your will. Finally, the plot may not convince you but its Byzantine complexity certainly inspires reluctant admiration. This may not be a Great American Novel, but itís not a bad thriller." - Andrew Taylor, The Spectator

  • "To get to this borderline-plausible conclusion, however, readers must keep straight innumerable flashbacks and flash-forwards and novels within novels, many of which feel redundant. (...) As maladroit as this novel is in so many ways, it churns along at such a good clip and is rendered with such high emotion and apparent deep conviction that itís easy to see why it was a bestseller in Europe. Itís likely to be one in this country, too, where in the land of bestsellerdom, earnest lardiness counts for a lot." - Richard Lipez, The Washington Post

  • "Es ist ein sorgsam geordnetes Buch, das, trotz seiner komplizierten Unterstruktur, den Leser nie allein lässt. Der Kriminalfall wird geschickt dazu genutzt, das Eigentliche wie nebenbei zu erzählen: Was Menschen alles machen, um so zu scheinen, wie sie am liebsten von den anderen wahrgenommen werden würden. (...) Und -- auch das noch ! -- das Buch ist lustig. (...) Joël Dicker aus Genf hat einen Roman geschrieben, der einem zeigt, was möglich ist, wenn ein junger Mensch den Mut hat, schreibend aufs Ganze zu gehen." - Peer Teuwsen, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair most resembles one of those old-fashioned musical films where a small-town-USA group of teens gets together to put on a show: taking an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, stuffed with the incongruous, lots of off-key singing, with countless things that go wrong and a bloated, misshapen story that veers off unpredictably on tangents, but where the naïve bunch who are in way over their heads somehow pull it off -- maybe something that's not really objectively good but still manages to be satisfying.
       The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair is all that and more. Its author is a French-writing Swiss, but his ambition is a 'page-turner à l'américaine', right down to its American setting -- yet what he's written is a so European-flavored take on the American mystery-thriller that parts feel like unintentional caricature. [To get this out of the way, one example: Dicker has the local St. James's Church, once run by retired Reverend Kellergan, being turned into a McDonald's (allowing the former pastor to moan: "The whole world is being turned into a McDonald's"); that's exactly the sort of thing 'Europeans' would (like to) believe about America, and a mistake no American writer would ever make. (Regardless of what you think of McDonald's, its simply inconceivable that they would convert a church into one of their fast-'food'-outlets, for more reasons than I can count)] Dicker seems to have leapt into this with the exuberance (and the tools, talents, and maturity) of a teen who says 'Let's put on a show !' His is a solo-act -- he's writing a book, instead -- but otherwise this has the feel exactly such an amateur hour, writ very, very large.
       Dicker's alter ego is a similarly young American author who narrates/writes this story. Marcus Goldman managed with his first book what Dicker in fact pulled off with this one (his second), becoming, at age twenty-eight, a literary superstar, about whom: "Even the harshest critics" agreed, he: "was destined to become one of our great writers". [The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair was not only a mega-bestseller in France (and then beyond), but won several major literary prizes, and was even shortlisted for the biggest of them all, the prix Goncourt (which is sort of like if Stephen King had been a finalist for the Pulitzer for Carrie, only more far-fetched/harder to justify).] Okay, maybe the critics aren't quite in the same agreement about Dicker's likely future fortune, but in the simplistic other-world of his fiction his character Goldman is readily anointed as the next big thing based solely on his first novel, published in 2006 -- that's the way publishing (and pretty much everything) works in Dicker's over-simplified cartoonish depiction. There's little indication of why Goldman's debut was so well-received, but then Dicker's book isn't so much about actual literature, it's about the romantic image of writing and writers; the actual product doesn't really figure that prominently.
       The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair is, in fact, all about writing, and not-writing -- taking on a bizarre additional metafictional layer in how successful Dicker's The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair has been, a novel that tells the story of Goldman writing what becomes the similarly successful ... The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair.
       Goldman was a smart -- he got into Harvard and Yale -- but insecure young kid from New Jersey who clamored for approbation but preferred to avoid challenging himself against real competition -- hence, instead of the Ivy League, where he worried he couldn't stand out, he attended the small New England college of Burrows. He also wanted to be a 'writer' , and was lucky to find a mentor at Burrows, the great Harry Quebert who, decades earlier, in 1975, had hit it big with his second book, The Origin of Evil, which had: "sold a million copies and won two of the country's most prestigious literary awards: the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award". After the success of his own book, when he took up that hard-partying New York lifestyle, Goldman kind of forgot about the old man and barely kept in touch -- but when he finds he still can't get started on his second book he turns back to the only man who he thinks can help him: Harry.
       It's early 2008 and his publisher is pressuring and then threatening Goldman, and Goldman gets increasingly desperate. (Dicker's vision and version of how American publishing 'works' is wonderfully silly (and inaccurate) -- Goldman's hapless literary agent is presented exactly as one would expect someone who has no idea what these people could possibly be good for to see such a character --, a beautiful European take on how they apparently see ruthless capitalists at work; unfortunately, it also makes much about the book -- relying for much of its tension on the pressure Goldman is under to churn out his book(s) -- implausible.) The calming, supportive influence of Harry, and the oasis of Somerset, New Hampshire, seem to offer a last chance for Goldman to avoid complete catastrophe.
       Goldman wants to be a 'writer', but never seems to be quite clear about what that actually means. He's already enjoyed more success than any author could dream for, but he still has great ambitions. Disappointingly, these are rather vague (and bathetic):

I want to write a great novel, with great ideas ! I want to write something unforgettable.
       He's looking for effect, rather than art; he has no ideas, just a desire to put on a show .....
       At least Harry calls him on it: "Your overambitiousness always did get on my nerves", and briefly one hopes there might be hope. Well, not really; only twenty-some-odd pages in, it's already clear that the writing will never quite make the grade. In any case, Goldman (re-)embraces Harry-as-mentor -- to the extent that each of the thirty-one chapters of the novel -- presented in countdown/reverse order ... -- is preceded by a nugget of writing wisdom Harry offered Goldman. Because that's all it takes, of course: a by-the-numbers how-to guide, making for a ready-to-assemble number one bestseller. (Don't laugh -- Goldman's efforts may seem unconvincing, but Dicker's, after all, delivers as promised -- it may not be: "a great novel, with great ideas", it may not even be "something unforgettable", but, damn, it sure sold a lot of copies.)
       [The advice Harry offers is so bafflingly fatuous one wonders whether Dicker is having us all on; a favorite is:
     "Harry, how long does it take to write a book ?"
     "That depends."
     "On what ?"
     "On everything."
       The only thing missing would be Goldman having each Zen- (or, as some critics have suggested, Paulo Coelho-)like insight, separately framed, hanging on his writer-studio-wall ..... (And I remind you again: this work was a finalist for the highest French literary prize.)]
       Fortunately, Goldman doesn't need to rely on Harry's words of wisdom to get him over his writer's block (fortunate, since they don't really seem to help him much). Instead, reality intrudes -- and, yes, Goldman winds up selling out completely: instead of writing a grand work of fiction he turns to the lowest level of writing, the tell-all non-fiction exposé. The Truth about Harry Quebert. (And then, because that didn't quite work out as planned, the follow-up, The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair.) Because for all of Harry's babbling, the real inspiration lies in his backyard, where, in the summer of 2008, they dig up the remains of Nola Kellergan, a girl who disappeared in 1975, when she was fifteen. Despite being so close to Harry, Goldman had never heard about Nola -- and could not know that, as Harry admits:
Nola was the only woman I ever loved, and, unfortunately for me, she was only fifteen. But it was love, for God's sake -- you can't control love !
       In fact, Harry was planning to elope with her that August night in 1975, hightailing it to Canada (and then decorously waiting until she was eighteen for them to get married ...). While his relationship with the underage girl was apparently not well- or widely-known back in the day, the evidence is seen as overwhelming (it doesn't help that the one thing found with her was an inscribed copy of the manuscript of The Origin of Evil), and Harry is hauled away, brought up on charges of kidnapping and murder, and soon facing the death penalty. [New Hampshire is, conveniently, a state that still has the death penalty, but given that they executed all of three prisoners in the entire twentieth century, and that the last state execution was in 1939, Harry really shouldn't have had that much to fear. From a legal perspective it also seems almost impossible that anyone could have thought the capital murder charge would stick -- even if they could somehow hang the murder charge on him, proving that Nola was kidnapped (the necessary aggravating circumstances here to make the murder capital) more than three decades after the fact is a near-impossibility (and, even just on the initial evidence, would have been a stretch back in 1975, too). But, of course, Europeans expect the American justice system to be unconscionably harsh, the death penalty awaiting practically every accused murderer ..... So too, throughout, Dicker prefers the big (movie-ready) scene -- the disgraced official led away in handcuffs after confessing to a(n admittedly awful) crime -- rather than worrying about legal and procedural niceties (the New Hampshire statute of limitations was over even for that crime; another charge (interfering with a police investigation) would probably have been the more important one in this instance, etc.).]
       To all the world it looks like: Famous author murdered his young Lolita ! This is a big deal. A case that attracts national attention. Or, as Dicker/Goldman puts it -- because you can apparently never lay on the hyperbole thick enough --:
This was the biggest scandal in the history of publishing.
       Goldman believes in his mentor, who claims his innocence (well, about everything except wanting to run away with a fifteen-year-old), and he feels a sense of duty to him: "Without him I would never have become the writer I am now" -- dubious praise indeed in the mind of the reader, still rolling his eyes, but meant sincerely by the successful -- or once (less than two years ago ...) successful writer ...... Eventually Goldman also gets roped into writing a book about the whole case, so he plays at investigating.
       Dicker seems to have read his Hardy Boys-mysteries; that's certainly the level of investigation here. Indeed, Goldman is perhaps the worst amateur investigator ever in a work of contemporary fiction. He's not so much bumbling as mindless, unable to put two and two together, and with zero follow-through. When he comes across a fact (or what looks like one), that's pretty much good enough for him. Look into it any further ? Why bother ? Check out the surrounding and background information ? Why bother ?
       Goldman gets friendly with local Sergeant Perry Gahalowood, the gruff but lovable; "African American with hands like bear paws, wearing a too-tight blazer that revealed his powerful, stocky build". They banter as mismatched investigators in buddy movies do, the too-white intellectual from the big city who has led the soft life versus the conveniently darker-skinned down-to-earth country policeman, the policeman distrustful of the outsider at first but then accepting that he too has something to offer ..... An early exchange is pretty typical:
     "What could I learn from the autopsy ? Actually, do you say autopsy when it's just a skeleton ?
     "I don't know."
     "Wouldn't forensic examination be a more appropriate term ?"
     "I don't give a damn about the exact term. What I can tell you is that she had her skull smashed ! Smashed ! Bang ! Bang !"
     As he accompanied these words with gestures, miming someone hitting with a bat, I asked him: "So it was done with a bat ?"
     "I don't know, you son of a bitch."
       Gahalowood not only shows remarkable restraint in not demonstrating with an actual bat on Goldman's own person, but actually gives the writer some good advice -- vital, since Goldman shows himself to be extremely advice-reliant throughout, and pretty much incapable of coming up with a sensible idea on his own. Gahalowood tells him:
Good cops don't focus on the killer ... they focus on the victim. You need to find out about the victim.
       The victim -- at least the one everyone is interested in -- is Nola Kellergan. She disappeared 30 August 1975. A woman, Deborah Cooper, called the police twice that night, once to say she thought she saw a girl being chased by a man, then not too much later saying that the girl was now in her house -- but then, apparently, the attacker found them. When the police got there Deborah Cooper was dead and Nola gone.
       Nola was the daughter of Reverend Kellergan; the family had come north from Alabama six years earlier, in 1969, when Nola was just nine. In the summer of 1975 she worked in a local diner. Harry Quebert, a struggling writer from New York with one self-published book to his name, decided he needed a change of scenery, and came to Somerset, renting a house way out of his league, but making a grand impression on the locals. And he and Nola apparently fell for each other, hard.
       Goldman begins nosing around, looking into those events of more than thirty years ago -- despite immediately finding himself warned off by notes left for him, and then some rather more emphatic suggestions that he go back where he belongs ("Threatening letters ?" his cartoonish publisher swoons; "That's great ! That'll really help sell the book. Imagine if someone tries to kill you -- you could add another zero to the sale figures right away. Two if you actually die") -- and he pieces together parts of Nola's life that summer. As noted, he's not very good at this, so he only sees the parts and doesn't really get the bigger picture. Harry also doesn't really help much by not being completely forthright about his relationship -- and, indeed, coyly and ridiculously there's not even any discussion of just how intimate he and the young girl got. (The ick-factor is kept very much under wraps by Dicker/Goldman; so, for example, when Nola wants to be more open about their relationship, the level of discussion doesn't go much beyond Harry reminding her: "Nola, you're fifteen ... and I'm thirty-four. People would be shocked".)
       Perhaps the only really good use of the Harry-Quebert-words-of-inspirational-wisdom® that preface each of the chapters is about two-thirds of the way through, when Harry tells Goldman:
The danger of books, Marcus, is that sometimes you lose control of them.
       Bullied by his publisher, Goldman has only had a tenuous hold on his book anyway, but it's a nice twist when Dicker allows him to really lose control over it and what follows. It gets worse when the book is actually out there, but certainly the locals aren't happy with Goldman once the first hints of what he's been writing come out. And though he thinks he's onto the truth about the Harry Quebert affair ... well, not so fast, young fella .....
       The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair isn't really a murder-mystery, or the story about a man and the one, great lost love of his life. It is a story of betrayal. Betrayals, galore. Above all, however, it is a story of writers and writing -- and, as part of that, of image versus reality. Part of the problem, then, too is that naïve and young Dicker/Goldman want 'writing' to be a certain thing -- "Everyone loved you when you were a great writer", Goldman's mother laments, not even two years after publication of his first book ... -- but the writing on show here, and the successes of Goldman's books give a very different impression; the ones he completes in trying to clear up everything Harry Quebert-related seem barely more than hurried-journalistic tell-alls. Harry's homilies -- "Writing a book is like loving someone. It can be very painful" -- resound for all the wrong reasons and in all the wrong ways. The truly subversive lesson of the conclusion is an amusing about-turn, but leaves the book a rather hollow shell (a justification for why it reads so hollowly even before the reader is aware of what's coming ?).
       Marcus could and should have seen the truth about Harry Quebert before; the exact nature of it is so ridiculously complicated as to have been out of reach to him (and to the reader), but the essential part is surely something that can be seen coming from near the get-go (though admittedly Harry's own stance and some of his evasions make it a bit harder to remain consistently securely convinced). Parts of this -- the murder-mystery, the explanation(s) whodunnit -- get a bit silly, and much was out of Goldman's (and the reader's) reach until it conveniently fell into place. Still, there are a few pieces he should have picked up or gone to collect a bit earlier, a few questions he should have asked. Dicker is no master of the misdirect -- he doesn't play entirely fair -- and some of what the story hinges on is of the ridiculous why-didn't-he-see-it sort, but this plot is so over-the-top elaborate that it almost works (there's so much keeping reader's busy that the holes don't entirely trip things up).
       Dicker does manage the quite impressive feat of making a story about a love-affair between a man in his mid-thirties and a fifteen-year-old girl almost anodyne. There's some local shrieking about how awful such an unnatural relationship is, but perhaps because it never appears -- or is displayed -- as real, where all we have is Harry's descriptions of his longing and a bit of time spent together with the girl, it doesn't really seem very offensive. But then, as noted, The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair isn't really about their relationship, or her murder. (There is only one description of a sexual act in the novel, and mention of another, and these are unsavory -- but they're also so clearly parts of the puzzle, with a rationale that seems failry obvious (not that Goldman sees it, not for the longest time) that one can just check them off as just another part essential to Dicker's over-complicated plot.)
       It is noteworthy how poor the (would-be) romantic relationships in the novel are. Gahalowood seems to be the only one in a healthy relationship: Goldman is unattached, and even if Harry had found the love of his life, let's face it, that wasn't exactly an ideal one; another couple finds one of the partners regularly drugging the other into a deep slumber, while a homosexual couple doesn't feel comfortable revealing their relationship. And don't even ask about Nola's parents (as, apparently nobody does ...).
       It's also remarkable how very much the characters and atmosphere seem foreign-(i.e. US-)pop-culture inspired: Dicker may have summered in Maine frequently, but his characters -- the lawyer, the publisher, Goldman's mother (her conversation, thoughts, and actions a spitting image of George-Costanza-of-Seinfeld's-mother's) -- come straight out of the tacky American TV shows of yesteryear. It make for a faux-America that's just that weird tad off (and exaggerated in a way Americans wouldn't exaggerate). Longtime French-resident Sam Taylor might also not have been the ideal choice to translate this -- unless the intention was to keep that goofy, slightly off-key sound to the whole thing intact (and you can see why they might have wanted to do that -- really fixing this would have been a load of work). So, for example, a homosexual character explains he: "belonged to the other side"; surely, whatever the euphemism is, it's not that ('bat for the other side', or more likely: 'play for the other team', but surely not 'belonged').
       So there's a lot that's wrong with The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair. (It's over six hundred pages, too -- have I mentioned that ? -- and much of it is not well-paced (though there are a couple of decent pivots).) Looking at it more closely, it sounds pretty terrible -- and I assure you, it could be taken apart much more and it would not be a pretty sight. And yet it has some things going for it, and you can (almost) see why it's been such a success.
       Dicker writes with the sincerity and earnestness (and immature talents) of a small-town teen with stars in his eyes, and just as one smiles at and excuses many of the failings of the show the kids put on, so too Dicker's novel, even with (or because of ?) its Mickey-Rooney-level dialogue, has enough to it to to make you smile.
       The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair isn't a good book -- god, no it really isn't -- but its badness can, for the most part, largely be ... overlooked, if not forgiven. (It's one of those books you don't even want to call 'flawed', because that doesn't even begin to describe it (though it could: man, you could use this as a text for a writing-lesson tutorial in what-not-to-do-and-how-not-to-do-it for a whole semester) -- but it also doesn't really matter that much here.) You could do worse for a summer beach read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 26 May 2014

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Links:

The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair: Reviews: Joël Dicker: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swiss author Joël Dicker was born in 1985.

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© 2014 the complete review

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