This book is like a bowl of porridge. It seems like a good idea in the beginning — you’re like, “Yeah rad I’m gonna have some porridge because that’ll keep me going like it’ll be good in the long run and I won’t regret it at all, no sir” and then, after about three mouthfuls, you realise you’ve made a massive mistake and sit there frowning down at the bowl, wondering how you even allowed yourself to get into this situation in the first place.
I could’ve also started this review like so: Do you like anti-climactic storylines doused in cliches and shallow characters? How about dialogue concocted by an adult with the English vocabulary of a 12 year-old? What’s more, how does a crime story with undertones of paedophilia and jealousy, narrated by a 12 year-old, sound to you? Exciting? Intriguing? Slightly concerning? The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker has all of those things, and more!
Despite this being one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read (and not for its content, either — its actual structure and style was a punish), I ought to cut Dicker some slack. As a Swiss author, I’m sure his original manuscript is very good, written in whatever language it was intended for. My copy, stamped by Women’s Weekly magazine as a “great read”, was translated into English by Sam Taylor, and I hardly know who to blame. Perhaps the grittiness was lost in translation, or perhaps Dicker is actually just a terrible writer and Taylor translated it word-for-word, either way, my disappointment with this novel is phenomenal. It’s on the same level as Nick Earl’s 48 Shades Of Brown right now, and that’s close to subterraenean.
Marcus Goldman, a writer of sorts, suffers from writer’s block. It takes Dicker about three whole chapters to introduce Goldman and his issues. These issues lead to him seeking out his old literature professor, Harry Quebert, in the hope of finding some new inspiration to start another book. At one point, Quebert asks his gardeners to plant a heap of hydregnea bushes in his yard, and the skeleton of a girl who disappeared almost 30 years ago, Nola Kellergan, is discovered. It sounds promising so far, if not a little too easy at how Goldman finds himself caught up in it all. To utilise a cliche, however, the plot thickens. Quebert admits to Goldman that he and Nola had been in love when she was alive, and the affair between a 30-something year-old and a teenage girl is revealed to the town of Somerset, New Hampshire. Marcus is left to put the pieces together and prove Quebert’s innocence, if he even is innocent at all.
Even regurgitating the plot for this novel makes me angry. It sounds like it could be so good, but it just isn’t. All of the novel’s praise originates from Europe — Germany, Spain, Italy, fucking Romania — where English is either the second or third most popular language. I don’t know what editions they’re reading, but maybe if I taught myself Romanian or French or started studying German again I might enjoy this downright awful clump of basic text rather than feeling annoyed about having spent $7 on it in the first place. It’s like if a half-hearted Lolita met a PG-rated Twin Peaks; it’s like if Truman Capote hadn’t actually been good. That’s what this book is like.
I tried to enjoy The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, but I was hoping the truth would be more hard-hitting, more offensive. It was if Dicker took a potentially moving storyline and then got afraid of upsetting too many people, so he dumbed it down to develop a generic and uninspired outcome. This is, without doubt, one of the worst books I’ve ever read.
Cover artwork: 7/10
Overall Rating: Don’t buy this/10