The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker, translated from the French by Sam Taylor
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is a thrilling page-turner that centres around a labyrinthine murder investigation, but at its core the novel also raises a spectrum of questions about the process of creativity and the motivations for writing fiction.
The narrator is Marcus Goldman, an author struggling to write his second book after the huge success of his first. He goes to New Hampshire to visit his old friend and mentor Harry Quebert, who is arrested soon afterwards when the remains of a teenage girl are discovered buried in his garden, 33 years after her disappearance. When it is revealed that a manuscript of Quebert’s most famous novel was found with the body, it seems like an open-and-shut case, but Goldman believes that his friend is innocent. Abandoning all efforts to produce any work for his publisher and risking financial ruin as well as his reputation, he decides to find out the truth.
The main narrative takes place in 2008, rooted by the backdrop of Obama’s presidential election campaign, and it is interspersed with recounts of past events, largely from 1975 – the year the murdered girl went missing. It is meticulously crafted: the multiple timelines are seamlessly linked by the flow of the investigation and the characters are so vivid that certain revelations throughout the book feel almost like personal betrayals. Every character is projecting some form of falsehood, some small –like the aspiring writer from New York who does nothing to dispel the assumption that he is famous and wealthy–, others life-changing in their significance. Suffice to say that, as is often the case in seemingly quaint little towns, dark secrets lie just beneath the surface of the community.
Don’t be put off by the length of this brilliant book – it may have over 600 pages, but believe me, every one of those is worth it.
Written by Jenny Nicholls
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham