The Truth about the Harry Quebert affair by Joël Dicker

the truth about the Harry Qubert affair

The truth about the Harry Quebert affair by Joël Dicker

Swiss fiction

Orginal title La Vérité sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert

Translator – Sam Taylor

Source – review copy

It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita via goodreads


Well in the UK ,you bound to have seen this about it has been really pushed by Waterstones book shop here , which is good to see so often translated fiction doesn’t get the front windows or main tables in book shops .So to Joël Dicker ,he is Swiss writer ,he was born and schooled in Geneva ,he went to Paris to study for a year after school ,then returned and completed a degree in law in Switzerland ,he has always written this his first book has been a runaway success in Europe .it won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens Grand Prix du Roman de l’Academie Francaise prizes .

“He wrote that book for that girl , Marcus .For a fifteen-year-old girl .I can’t leave the plaque there .That’ not love – it’s disgusting .”

“I think it’s more complicated than that ,” I said .

“And I think you should keep your nose out of this , Marcus .You should go back to New York and stay far away from all this ”

Marcus is told to leave the Harry Quebert affair alone .


So what is the book about ,well it is told in two main time lines the first is in the summer of 1975 ,when the character of the title Harry Quebert is spending the summer in Somerset in New Hampshire ,finishing a book which he feels will cement his places as one of the best writers around  his book the origins of evil is maybe more than it first seemed .During this  time he befriends a young girl Nola Kellergran .Now she disappears at the end of this summer this brings us to the other timeline .For 33 years ,later her body is discovered in the yard of the house Harry Quebert was staying in that summer and she is holding a copy of Harry Quebert manuscript.This is where we meet Marcus Goldman ,now he  is a writer just starting his journey as a writer and was taught by Harry Quebrt so he decides to go to Somerset and find pout what really happened and prove that the man he knew so well isn’t the killer and get him free as Harry Quebert now sits in Jail .Along the way the Life of Nola Kellerman isn’t as simple or clean as it once seems as Marcus uncovers more and more about the men she was involved with that summer and what she was really doing .Does he find the killer ,does Harry walk free and what about the two books Harry’s and Marcus’s about Harry’s case ?

The masterpiece I had so desperately wanted to write …. Harry had written it .He had sat at a table in a diner and written words of absolute genius , wonderful sentences that had moved the whole country ,taking care to hide within his work the story of his love affair with Nola Kellergran

The Origins of Evil was Harry’s masterpiece and the book he was writing that summer .

Now this book is great for a début but you do feel after finishing it a good edit and maybe a few changes would have moved it into that instant classic band .But that said it is a wonderful Homage to all things America now Maclehose have gone with a Hopper painting for the cover here and yes this is the america of Hopper and Rockwell .What Joël Dicker has done is taken parts of recent American culture and mixed them so we have part of Twin peaks Nola Kellergran is rather like Laura Palmer in that the more the book unfolds like in the tv show twin peaks the more we gather she isn’t what she first seemed .Part Stephen King that New England and the small town of Somerset could have walked out of a king novel .Part Cold Case drama now I could pick one shpow out but there is a number of shows and books about Cold crime case solving Marcus Goldman is the classic writer turned detective .Part Lolita how many men were attracted to this young women ? Now this book also struck me as part written for a film or tv series ,now that isn’t a bad thing is it ,I mean stephen King has done it for years ,so keep your eyes out for a version of this for a film ,I would love to see a great director get this book in the hands of the likes of David Lynch or Wim Wenders it would really bring out  the darker side of the book out .So I look forward to seeing what Joël Dicker does next ?

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings
    May 18, 2014 @ 10:04:40

    Interesting review Stu. I’ve heard mixed things about this book and it sounds like it’s good but could have been better!


  2. MarinaSofia
    May 18, 2014 @ 10:44:12

    I was a little disappointed by the book after all the rave reviews in French. Not that I minded the rather pedestrian language (made it easier for me to read – my French is by no means perfect) or the ever-so-slightly predictable storyline. Like you, I found it had interesting ideas but could have benefited from more editing.


  3. Annabel (gaskella)
    May 18, 2014 @ 11:16:10

    I bought this last week. I hadn’t spotted the Hopper cover! – and me a Hopper fan.


  4. heavenali
    May 18, 2014 @ 11:22:59

    Oh I really must stop reading about all these books I end up wanting to buy 🙂 This sounds really good. Debuts are interesting in that they can really show what might come in the future..


  5. Jenny Ackland
    May 18, 2014 @ 11:45:39

    I found this book readable but not deserving of the hyperbole. It is not well written, it stretches credibility and it is cliched. Yes, rigorous editing would have helped but I feel that wasn’t the whole problem.


  6. Guy Savage
    May 18, 2014 @ 14:28:54

    I just finished it. And I finished it in spite of its messy, bloated plot, caricatures and overt, flagrant preposterous impossibilities. There’s a decent novel buried there which is why I finished it.


  7. jacquiwine
    May 18, 2014 @ 18:23:12

    There seems to be quite a buzz about this book and your references to Twin Peaks and Stephen King have captured my attention. It does sound as though have done with a bit of pruning, though..


  8. Claire 'Word by Word'
    May 18, 2014 @ 20:01:45

    Lots of buzz, which suggests to me its targeted at the mass audience and therefore likely to be controversial among a more avid readership. Still, as you say, nice to see a work of translated fiction making a big buzz worldwide, so I’ll be reading it to at least know what its all about, happy it’s a pageturner as I doubt I’ll be highlighting too many lyrical passages.

    I think he wrote a few other novels before he found success with this one, from an article I read in the Observer.


  9. Bellezza
    May 20, 2014 @ 01:17:07

    I was so disappointed in this, perhaps because of the hype and winning French awards as well as international praise. Not sure what was so praiseworthy. To me it was long and boring, and not even indicative of America. Only an America from an outsider’s eyes. What does a Swiss man, writing in French, know of America? I don’t care if he lived here in the summers of his childhood, this book lacked authenticity, for me, as well as an interesting plot.

    At one point, about half way through, I kept asking myself, “But who cares what the truth about Harry Quebert is?” Perhaps likening it to Stephen King is fitting, in that there’s not much of literary value here. At least for me.


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May 2014


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