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.
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!
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 enjoyed this overall, but found it a little confusing , in that there were two characters who 'narrated' their own stories and I couldn't always tell where I was with the story. However, it was a well crafted tale, and I found it enjoyable. I am a Joanne Harris fan and like her quirky ideas.
Half way through the book I did actually 'work out' who the 'villain' was, possibly because I AM a JH fan. But it was still good to listen to.
Loved this book! Really well written and extremely well narrated. The suffocating atmosphere of an all boys school, coupled with all the pettiness and snobbery of the staff, are brilliantly evoked. Mr Straightly is like an academic Rumpole, full of wit and wisdom - I'm planning on listening to the next story very soon.
Lots of twists and turns and with the story told from two perspectives, this is not to be missed. I didn't realise that Joanne Harris was such a good writer, having only read Chocolat which I didn't particularly enjoy. Glad I gave her another go!
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book. The narration was well paced and the voice well suited to the story. The story kept my interest right up to the last word. I recommend it!
It built up the tension well but the ending was ultimately disappointing.
Not to everyone. Younger folk might like it. Avid readers will spot the twist like I did and have the story spoiled.
I occasionally got confused as to who was narrating but overall he was OK - especially good at older characters.
The 'types' of teachers are a bit of a giggle for anyone who is in education.
"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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