Book of the week : The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair - Joel Dicker

Joël Dicker’s novel The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair is an unexpected reading experience. It was written when the author was just 26 years old, so it’s hard to believe the maturity, complexity and even the setting of this brilliantly engendered story. For this native of Geneva chose an unlikely setting: New England, and specifically a secluded little town called Somerset. This coastal suburb was just one of a series of elements that, assembled, were instrumental in making this book a best-seller throughout the world, having earned many awards (such as the Romance Grand Prize of the French Academy) and knocking blockbusters such as Fifty Shades of Grey off the top of bestseller lists.

The story begins in New York in 2008, where Marcus Goldman, a young man who has gone through the glory of fame and recognition with his first book, faces a personal crisis: he’s clueless about what his second book is going to be about. When all of his schemes for finding inspiration fail, he begins to question his talent. On top of that, he feels utterly lonely and pressured by his manager and editor, who crave the on-time delivery of the promised manuscript

At this point of the story, a worn-out Marcus seeks a peaceful ambience, far removed from the manic Manhattan lifestyle he feels trapped in. One person comes to his mind - Harry Quebert, his teacher at college, with whom he’d formed close ties. Harry’s a much cherished novelist in the USA, a national treasure. Harry welcomes him in his seaside house in Goose Cove, where he lives alone. Single and childless, Harry very much resembles his young protégé. Together, they revive the good times they spent together, and discuss literature, life, and loneliness

All of a sudden their peaceful world is shattered when the remains of Nola Kellergan are found buried in Harry’s garden. In 1975, Nola’s disappearance had made national headlines, turning the town into a media circus. The fifteen year old blond teenager just vanished, and up until 2008 no clues had been found. With the discovery of her skeleton by the gardener and its subsequent forensic analysis, it becomes evident that she died very young

Worse still, Harry confesses he had been in a secret relationship with this girl a few months before she disappeared, but asserts he didn’t kidnap or kill her, and was completely unaware of the presence of her remains in his garden. Despite it having been a consensual romance, Harry’s accused of being a pervert, and when he reveals that his best-known book, a love story strangely entitled The Origins of Evil, was inspired by Nola, it’s immediately removed from bookstores, libraries and schools all over the country

A distraught Marcus does everything in his power to prove the innocence of his only real friend, investigating with the aid of a police detective. He interviews the townspeople who had known Harry and Nola in an attempt to find out the truth about the past

Marcus’ editor pressures him to write a book about his investigation. At first Marcus resists but then he realises he’s finally found a theme to write about, and that it could be beneficial to Harry by helping to prove his innocence

The place and time of the narration switches between the present and 1975, following the accounts and memories of the many characters involved in this intrigue, including Harry and Nola. Gradually, Dicker unveils the mystery surrounding Nola. As the story progresses, you’ll be shocked at each new discovery, and begin to question every assumption that you’d previously subconsciously made. This series of revelations culminate in an unexpected and touching ending

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair is a magnificent tale of love, creativity, attempt and failure, glory and disgrace, loneliness, and the true meaning of friendship. To find all of that in just one book is a rare occurrence. Read this book, and prepare to be swept away by it

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