657 pages. That’s how long the The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is. And on the Kindle – when you can’t see the page numbers but only see the progress towards 100% – those pages are interminable. The book’s the story of Marcus Goldman, a young, highly acclaimed debut author who can’t summon the creative juices for book #2, but is suddenly offered the opportunity to deliver a roman a clef – or perhaps a juicy true crime book, it’s hard to tell – about his mentor, the famous Harry Quebert. Harry is ALSO an amazingly successful writer, who penned a novel based on his doomed romance with 15-year-old Nola Kellergan. Said romance occurring when Harry was 34. Nola disappeared back in the day, and her body was just unearthed, 33 years later… in Harry’s back yard. Who killed her? And what the heck will protege Marcus do? $3 million is a lot of dough.
Here’s what the book has: over the top, breathless prose. Characters who all sound exactly alike, except for the guy who got beaten to within an inch of his life, so he sounds like Phteven. Labyrinthine jumps in time from today to the mid-70s and back. And so many “whodunnit” twists that make The Killing look reasonable. (My husband gave up on that show half-way through because it was like whack-a-mole: every character was under serious suspicion at one point or another.) And a groan-out-loud ending. On the good side, it does have a strong voice and kept me turning the pages (metaphorically speaking) just to get to the end.
But here’s the question: Why the heck is this book getting so much hype and so many reviews? The column inches devoted to book reviews in the press is low. Very low. Not many books get reviewed.
And yet, the New York Times gives Harry a lot of space and is generally positive, depending on how seriously you interpret the adjectives. The Independent (UK) says it’s seductive. NPR calls it chilling, but cautions that the writing is not so good. Both Entertainment Weekly and the Washington Post basically say what I’m saying – some good stuff there but nothing to write home about. And on Amazon, readers average out at 3 stars – as of today, 94 give it just 1 star and 123 are giving it 5 stars.
My recommendation: Unless you’re a speed reader, read something else.