Book Review: The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker

Book -The Truth About The Harry Quebert AffairThe Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair is a very difficult book to put down. But the plot twists about so much that you need some breathing space every now and then to process all of its complexities. The narrative follows the story of Marcus Goldman, a young writer whose debut novel caused a sensation, and who is now suffering from writer’s block. Under pressure from his publisher, he eventually seeks the help of his old friend (and famous writer) Harry Quebert, staying with him for a while in the small seaside village of Somerset. Soon afterwards, the body of Nola Kellergan, a fifteen-year-old girl who disappeared over thirty years ago, is unearthed from Harry’s back garden.   

The book is gripping, and I have to say that the title – The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair – put me off slightly. It is not nearly as dull as the title makes it sound. In fact, it’s exceptionally clever. Each chapter begins with a piece of advice from Harry about how to write. The book is intriguing, and the further you get into it, the more you realise it’s not what it seems. In one sense, it is about digging up the past to discover the truth about Nola and her killer. But it is also about the process of writing, the power of words and the effect of secrets and false impressions. At several points in the story, Marcus Goldman thinks he has got to the truth, yet there always seems to be more to discover.

Flashbacks show us how Marcus’ early success helped him to become ‘Marcus the Magnificent’, with an overwhelming desire to always be seen to succeed. It also shows how he met Harry Quebert, the famous (and lonely) author and professor, who taught him some essential life lessons. The main lesson he teaches Marcus is that it’s important to experience failure, not to be so obsessed with success that you end up presenting a mask to the world.

The story gets more complicated when Marcus begins his own investigations into what happened to Nola Kellergan. The local police tolerate his presence, as he gradually begins to uncover misunderstandings, cover-ups and lies. Anonymous threats and another death show that this is far more complex than a simple murder.

Finally, we learn what really happened on that fateful day – 30th August, 1975. The truth comes out, history is re-written and Marcus Goldman completes his new book. And Harry Quebert, it turns out, had a secret to hide, a secret far more shameful than being suspected of murder, a secret that has driven him his whole life.

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