At St Oswald's, a long-established boys' grammar school in the north of England, a new year has just begun. For the staff and boys of the school, a wind of unwelcome change is blowing. Suits, paperwork and Information Technology rule the world; and Roy Straitley, the eccentric veteran Latin master, is finally - reluctantly - contemplating retirement. But beneath the little rivalries, petty disputes and everyday crises of the school, a darker undercurrent stirs. And a bitter grudge, hidden and carefully nurtured for thirteen years, is about to erupt.
©2005 Joanne Harris (P)2010 Random House AUDIO GO
This is arguably Joanne Harris' best novel, combining
stunning characterization with her remarkable talent
for weaving nail-biting tension and eerie mystery into
the minute of life a la normality. But it is the
narrator, Steven Pacey, who gets the brownie points
for this book. His interpretation of the characters is
nothing short of perfect, as is his pacing, tenor and
clarity of voice. Overall this is one of the best
audio books of the genre.
Had I stopped listening at the half-way mark this would have been a fairly pedestrian but well-written thriller with a fairly predictable plot. But then the twists come - completely unforeseen and astonishing. They are so overwhelming that one wants to re-listen to see where one missed the clues - but there are none. In the end I thought this one of the very best thrillers I had heard. Harris is superb in the way she leads the reader on - the story just credible enough to keep reading until it suits her to unleash her arsenal of surprises. The narration is truly brilliant - subtle changes in tone and pitch convey different characters very well. I can't really say more without revealing too much. No doubt about the five stars - see for yourself.
This was my introduction to Joanne Harris's longer fiction, and I am very impressed. It's a great, twisting story with a deliciously alluring villain, whose frank narration alternates with that of jaded elderly romantic Roy Straitley, physical emblem of St Oswald's school for boys, which the other narrator is out to destroy.
Harris recreates the otherworldly feel of the staffroom beautifully, and the reading by Steven Pacey is excellent. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed listening to a book this much; Pacey's timing is perfect as he reveals the layers upon layers of Harris's story.
Will read anything within reason.
This a story of a dusty old grammar school filled with privileged boys, and a plot to bring it down made by a malevolent outsider. This is a bit like a subversive Mr Chips with well-drawn characters and a villain who, whilst evil, does invite some sympathy. The supporting cast of characters are well written but I couldn’t help being irritated by their self-referential names (Knight, Meek, Bishop, Dare, Strange etc.). If this was supposed to be amusing, I thought the joke wore thin pretty quickly and detracted from the overall story. This felt like a cosy teatime drama with some nasty parts thrown in but the slow meandering pace meant it lacked edge of the seat tension. I also guessed the big plot twist very early on and I was very disgruntled to find I was right all along. Steven Pacey is a good reader but I had a big problem with differentiating between the voice of the teacher, and the voice of the villain and this was very confusing at times. I can understand why people rate this highly but for me, there were too many elements that I recognise from other stories so it did not feel very original or fresh.
I drive 80 miles a day so need plenty of listening material!
When the penny dropped near the end, I said: "Ohhhhh!" aloud. SUCH a cleverly plotted book with wonderful characters - goodies and baddies alike. I found myself running further than planned most days because I didn't want to unplug, and as others have already said, Steven Pacey's narration was perfect. Subtle alterations of tone were enough to differentiate clearly not only between the characters, but also the time periods in which they were speaking. Really wasn't expecting this story from Joanna Harris. Loved it.
I thought the story was gripping and very clever. Although uncomfortable to listen to at times as characters so well described I was drawn in and found it difficult to turn off. I am not normally a reader of 'novels' but I had enjoyed Chocolat and decided to try another of Joanne Harris' books. So pleased I did.
Superbly written and read, this novel has quite a different setting for a thriller - and the end result of that combination is really very intoxicating. It's quite slow to unwind but it's the attention to detail that pulls you in and keeps you hooked. I took particular notice of the other reviews - mainly because it's my first Joanne Harris novel - and I have the greatest regard for Steven Pacey. All of that paid dividends and I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole journey through this novel. Get ready for a great twist at the end. Brilliant!
Slow start, but grows on you - have downloaded the sequel. Without giving TOO much away: the identity twist was a bit laboured, and I "got it" long before the revelation, but a good read (listen, in my case) nevertheless.
Writing was good, but I just couldn't seem to get into the story. I do love Steven Pacey's reading. Have kept the book on hold and will perhaps get back to it later. Maybe I will revise my review later !
I loved the characters, the style of writing. I was drawn into the life of Roy Straitley, the eccentric veteran Latin master, I wanted him to teach me Latin. This was my first read of Harris and it will not be my last. SUPERB. It is a rare book that keeps you engaged the whole way through
Everything, I just loved everything, the Dark the Light, the characters everything
Roy Strailtley, he was brilliant, bu then Steven Pacey could make the Yellow Pages sound good!
If this was a book, you will not want it to end
This was the best book I have read in a long time. Enhanced by Steven Pacey
"a good mystery"
Quite unlike previous Joanne Harris novels this story set in an established private boy’s school and warms up after the first few chapters into an intriguing mystery. It takes some interesting twists and turns and kept me spellbound until the end. Having been a teacher in a private boy’s school, I did think that Harris depicted the range of characters and attitudes very well. It made me smile to recognise some! This added to the charm of the story but also reflects how the demands are so great that some teachers sadly make it their whole life and they are easily discarded when their “used by” date occurs! Highly recommended.
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