Monthly Archives: June 2016
Different Class by Joanne Harris
The Last Word Review
When you think of Joanna Harris you would not think of crime novels but in her latest release Different Class this is in fact her third crime novel a twisting psychological thriller set in a fictional Yorkshire town of Malbry with the backdrop being a boy’s grammar school and brilliantly written this is the third in the series of novels and follows on from Gentleman & Players.
The story is narrated through the boy’s Latin master Roy Straitley, so the story goes that the school has seen better days and now a schoolboy has been murdered. The school is in desperate need of some good fortune but it is in turmoil with the head and some of its tutors leaving, a new term and Straitley now in his sixties arrives for another term postponing his retirement but more problems lie ahead for him.
Johnny Harrington the new head arrives and he is smart in more ways than just his attire, he will be bringing new ways of education the boys and also installing a ‘paperless office’ regime into the school. But for Roy Straitley there is a real problem here the new head just so happens to be one of the boys he taught, but has brought the past to the current as there is a scandal to be told here involving the head when he was a boy that led to one the teachers spending time in one of her majesty’s prisons. This is not an ideal working relationship and the tension is palpable. Should Roy have just walked into retirement?
The story moves between the years 1981 and to the current timeline of 2005 bring to life the story as he reminisces of the time when the scandal was unfolding that includes an unnamed boy and to the current day as Roy agonises of the events that overshadow the school and threaten its very survival. Roy is very much old school and encompasses the values and traditions of the old way of teaching and the school as he remembers as it should be. One thing that you do take from reading the diary entries is the relationship between master and pupil and vice versa. A story that tackles many issues including loyalty and consciences.
This is one book that you will be lured into by the intricate plot and storyline and is excellently executed as a thriller you know that something is lurking within the story and there is real trouble brewing and it delivers on all fronts it is dark and at times unsettling. I have not read the previous two books in the series and will be keen to go back and start the series from the beginning though Different Class can be read as a stand-alone book but whatever it should not be missed and one I fully recommend.
Thank you to Patsy Irwin (Transworld Publishers) for a review copy.
Different Class by Joanna Harris is published by Doubleday and is available in Hardback through Waterstones and all good bookshops.
The Natural Way of Things -Charlotte Wood
The Last Word Review
First things first, the cover of Charlotte Wood’s fifth novel The Natural Way of Things is a thing of real beauty and you cannot help but be attracted to the cover design but it is what lies between the covers of this incredible novel that will be very hard to put down once you have read the first page.
You could easily be forgiven just thinking that this is just another novel, be warned this is not your average novel in anyway shape or form it blew me away from page one to the very last page. It could be a contender for one of the books of 2016. Just reading the press release that arrived with my copy and they compare it to Lord of the Flies and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood this is high praise.
The basis of the story is that a group of young women kidnapped, drugged and held captive in the remote part of mid Australia that in itself is shocking but then add in that it is surrounded by an electric fence and that they are shackled together and their heads shaved they have to wear the most appalling cloths.
They are put to work in what is back-breaking labour and in constant fear of their lives. Their captors are two young men who can only be described as nothing short as purveyors of evil, constantly threatening the women and after working them from sun up to sun down then locked them up every night. There is also another woman present and she calls herself ‘The nurse.’
The question the reader will ask themselves is who are these women and why have they been singled out? The answer does become clear and it is up to each reader to make up their own minds on the women’s personal lives but the story of taking the women prisoner and how they are treated is shocking in itself.
As the story progresses it becomes one of survival for the women as they realise that their only salvation is to form an alliance and find some form of escape as rescue looks a forlorn hope. But as you become absorbed by the gripping storyline you now start to wonder if there is really something else bigger than just these two young men acting alone in finding these women guilty of their crime. You alone have to decide if the answers to these questions are all answered. All I will say is that the ending is breathless and Wood has now total control of the reader and she had me gripped until the final page has been read. The Natural Way of Things will be a story that will linger inside of you for many another day and will leave many questions. It will also get underneath your skin a way many other novels cannot do. I do not say this lightly ‘this is really one hell of a novel and one I will not forget.’
For some this may be an uncomfortable read and could be construed as controversial even but I am left with nothing but the highest praise for Wood’s writing and how she manages to capture the reader and hold them through to its conclusion. Truly outstanding.
My thanks to Allen & Unwin for the Advanced Review Copy.
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood is published on 2 June by Allen & Unwin and will be available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.