Originally, I had taken a photo of the book title after I had finished it on Friday, June 3rd. I wanted it to include in the blog post of that day. And forgot.
So now here we go. A book review and a warning to please don’t waste your time and money on the following book:
And yes, this time I’m talking about a book that was also published in English.
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair: A Novel
by Joel Dicker
I learned about this book via Facebook. One of the book shops that I’m following had posted a photo of it, along with a note by one of the sales people of the shop with the following (not literally translated) recommendation: “ … if you have things to do, I suggest you don’t start reading this book. Because you’ll be unable to put it down… ”
I had just finished “Der Pfau” and was looking for the next book to read and I love recommendations, so I checked Amazon and the German version got tons of raving reviews. The overwhelming majority of readers rated it with 5 stars. I didn’t look any further and downloaded the iBook version.
This book is written by an author (Joel Dicker, a Frenchman, and I think this is his first novel) who writes about a younger author (Marcus Goldman) who writes about an older author (Harry Quebert). Which isn’t the problem. The problem is, that Joel Dicker has zero writing talent. When I first read what the story is all about, I thought it would be a good read (if you’re into crime/mystery novels, that is).
It’s the year 2008. So Marcus Goldman (I couldn’t with that name! And it doesn’t mean I have anything against Jewish names. I don’t! But still. Marcus Goldman, (the name – and also sometimes the character) kept bugging me is a writer who has published his first novel and it’s a big hit. He’s the Next Big Thing in the writers universe and a star. Until he isn’t anymore because he suffers from writers block and is unable to come up with a good idea for his follow-up book. He flees from his expensive apartment and his glamorous friends in NYC to a small town in New England and visits his old mentor from Uni – Harry Quebert – who’s a famous writer himself. He had published a book in 1975 that made him a big star as well. Marcus lives in Harry’s house and hopes to get some of his inspiration back. All chapters of the book begin with a little lecture from Harry to Marcus about what good writing is all about and what it means to be a good writer. Ironically, the author Joel Dicker obviously didn’t follow his own smartassery or this book wouldn’t have been such a disaster.
So while Marcus is still living in Harry’s house and is making friends with the very cliché-people in cliché small-town Aurora, but still doesn’t get his inspiration back, gardeners, wo where hired by Harry to plant some hydrangeas, dig up the skeleton of a girl that was obviously buried in Harry’s backyard. Buried with the body was the original manuscript of Harry’s million-seller novel. The girl is Nola and she went missing on August 30th, 1975. She was last seen running (fleeing?) through the woods, obviously followed by a man, and then disappeared, never to be heard from again. Back in the day Harry and Nola had an affair. Harry was 35 and Nola was 15. GASP!
Harry is thrown into jail because of course he must be the murderer.
Marcus Goldman doesn’t believe that Harry is the murderer and starts his own investigation. And begins writing a book about what he finds out. Which will now probably going to be a bestseller and is comeback as a star author.
The many problems with that book are:
1. the very dull and amateurish writing style. This is such a great example of bad writing, that I’m wondering who greenlit that shit in the first place. I thought that it was maybe lost in translation until some French reader said it was the same bad writing in the original language. So there’s that.
2. the very unbelievable “love story” between Harry and Nola. And I’m not talking about the creepy aspect of a 35 y/o being with a 15 y/o. It’s how that love story is fleshed out. Or lack thereof. The dialogue between these two is the most extremely cringe-worthy I’ve ever read. “Oh Harry… my beloved wonderful Harry… I love you so much! You’re going to be such a great author and your novel is so wonderful! I will always want to be with you, my beloved Harry.” “I love you too, my beloved Nola. You’re my everything.” It goes on like that and it never goes anywhere else. It never gets “inappropriate” because it never seems like they are having sex or even kiss. They are constantly talking abouw big and wonderful their love is, but… there is never anything to back that up, or any character developement.
3. Numerous plot twists that are not really surprising but pretty stupid and never caused a WHHHHAAAAAT?? moment.
4. Idiotic dialogue all around. Apart from “oh my beloved Harry – oh my beloved Nola” there are e.g. some phone conversations between Marcus Goldman and his completely idiotic mother. Yes mothers can be a bit irritating with being clingy. But this mother? She was written so incredibly over the top that the passages with the phone calls angered me to no end and I ended up skipping them.
So now you’re probably wondering why I even finished the 700+ pages. Well… good question. I guess at first I didn’t want to give up so quickly. Wanted to give it time. And then – although badly written – I wanted to find out how the story continued. I kept waiting for the “surprising turns” and all the things that the positive reviewers had written about. And then I wanted to find out who the fuck DID IT. Was it even really Nola in that grave? Was Harry the murderer nevertheless? Would there be some surprise revelation about him that would turn the whole thing around? So I bravely read my way to the end, where the author Dicker came indeed up with 500 twists and turns and it wasn’t suspenseful or mysterious or something… it was utter bullshit and annoying and I was so glad when I was finally finished with the whole thing.
And now I’m seriously wondering – along with more or less all 1- or 2-star reviewers, how that book can even get these many good and often raving reviews. So many!! I think it also won big literary awards. In France, that is. Are you fucking kidding me???? How many really good and well written books are out there and have never won an award? How many aspiring writers are out there trying to get their first book published who are probably a million times better than Joel Dicker? That’s the real mystery to me.
This could have been a good story. It sounded good from the synopsis on the book cover. And then this. The author Joel Dicker and in the process the author Marcus Goldman and also the author Harry Quebert come off so incredibly self-absorbed and sophomoric that it hurts.
All I can say is: don’t waste YOUR time and money on this rubbish.
And if you’re wondering why I’m making so many words about a really bad book: for some reason it’s more fun to write negative reviews than positive ones :-D. (That’s the huge critic bitch in me 😉 )
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