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Sunday June 22, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday June 22, 2014 MYT 9:01:43 AM
By JOEL WIJESURIA
A BOOK about writing a book about how someone wrote a book? Bookception?
Joel Dicker’s brilliant novel, The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair will give mystery fans a run for their money. The author manages to wrap layers of intrigue in layers of mystique and then top it off with a fine sprinkling of whodunit.
The book starts with an introduction to Marcus Goldman. At the beginning of the book, Goldman is a famous young writer suffering from writer’s block. He turns to his old friend and mentor, Harry Quebert, another famous author, who broke into the public eye with his second novel, The Origin Of Evil. Harry invites Marcus to come visit him in the small, idyllic town of Somerset, New Hampshire, so that he can revitalise his writing.
During Marcus’ visit, he stumbles across the mystery of Nola Kellergan, a young girl who disappeared when she was 15 years old, 33 years before, and her connection to Harry. Marcus returns to New York, not giving Nola’s story a second thought until her body is found buried in Harry’s garden. Suddenly, the whole world is against Harry, condemning him as a paedophile and a murderer. Marcus refuses to believe in Harry’s guilt and returns to Somerset, where with the help of a grumpy detective, he investigates Nola, Harry, and everyone else who touched their lives in the whirlwind of events that happened three decades before.
This is where the book starts becoming really interesting. Marcus uncovers a story of deception, jealousy, lust, anger and love that lies just under the seemingly perfect cover of small town America. Is Harry innocent of Nola’s death? Was Nola Kellergan the sweet child everyone thought she was? Is everyone hiding something?
These questions and more plagued my mind throughout my reading this book. Every time I thought I had the answer, the author cleverly slipped something else past me. It made for frustrating yet very compelling reading.
On first reading, I found some of the prose a little stilted and forced, as if two writers had written different parts of the text. However, I believe that the reason for this is that this book was originally written in French, then translated into English. Once this was established, on reading it again, I was able to accept the stilted prose as an unfortunate product of the translation and not as a mark against the writing itself.
The style of writing was evocative and descriptive and allowed me to easily visualise Somerset and its characters. I was also able to slip easily into the events described by Marcus, immersing myself in the action as it unfolded.
The author eventually ties all the loose ends together without it seeming at all contrived or convenient. This is a rarity in itself, as most books with as many loose ends seem to fall short of being able to close as thoroughly as this one.
I really enjoyed this book, and read it the first time in almost one sitting, going through its 640 pages in less than a day. It was as difficult to put down the second time I read it, with new facts about the affair that I did not notice at first jumping out at me. Joel Dicker has done real justice to the book within a book device, giving me a new appreciation for meta fiction.
Did Harry Quebert kill Nola Kellergan? Can Marcus Goldman save Harry? Does love overcome all evil? Maybe. Possibly. It could happen. I suggest reading the book to find out. You will not be disappointed. I’m looking forward to reading it a third time.
An interview with Joel Dicker
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