Summary and book reviews of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair

A Novel

By Joel Dicker

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair
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  • Hardcover: May 2014,
    656 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer

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About this Book

Book Summary

August 30, 1975: the day fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan is glimpsed fleeing through the woods, never to be heard from again; the day Somerset, New Hampshire, lost its innocence.

Thirty-three years later, Marcus Goldman, a successful young novelist, visits Somerset to see his mentor, Harry Quebert, one of the country's most respected writers, and to find a cure for his writer's block as his publisher's deadline looms. But Marcus's plans are violently upended when Harry is suddenly and sensationally implicated in the cold-case murder of Nola Kellergan - with whom, he admits, he had an affair.

As the national media convicts Harry, Marcus launches his own investigation, following a trail of clues through his mentor's books, the backwoods and isolated beaches of New Hampshire, and the hidden history of Somerset's citizens and the man they hold most dear. To save Harry, his own writing career, and eventually even himself, Marcus must answer three questions, all of which are mysteriously connected: Who killed Nola Kellergan? What happened one misty morning in Somerset in the summer of 1975? And how do you write a book to save someone's life?

A chart-topping worldwide phenomenon, with sales approaching a million copies in France alone and rights sold in more than thirty countries, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is a fast-paced, tightly plotted, cinematic literary thriller, and an ingenious book within a book, by a dazzling young writer.

Excerpt
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR

"Jesus, Marc, have you heard?"

"Heard what?"

"My God, turn on the TV! It's about Harry Quebert! It's Quebert!"

I put on the news. To my amazement I saw the house at Goose Cove on the screen and heard the reporter say: "It was here, in his home in Somerset, New Hampshire, that author Harry Quebert was arrested today after police discovered human remains on his property. Initial inquiries suggest this may be the body of Nola Kellergan, a local girl who at the age of fifteen disappeared from her house in August 1975 and has never been seen since." The room began spinning around me, and I collapsed onto the couch in a daze. I couldn't hear anything clearly anymore—not the TV, nor Douglas, at the other end of the line, bellowing, "Marcus? Are you there? Hello? He killed a girl? Quebert killed a girl?" In my head, everything blurred together like a bad dream.

So it was that I found out, at the same time as a...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. While you were reading the novel, were you conscious of the fact that it was originally written in French?

  2. Were Harry and Nola in love? Is true love possible between an adult in his thirties and a fifteen-year-old adolescent?

  3. There are no explicit sex scenes between Harry and Nola in the novel. Is it possible that their relationship was unconsummated?

  4. How well do you think Dicker captured small-town American life? Are the Quinns a typical American family?

  5. Is Marcus a reliable narrator?

  6. Do you agree with Marcus's ultimate decision to write a book about "The Harry Quebert Affair"? What would you have done in his position?

[Spoiler warning: Don't read ahead if you don't want to know too much!]

  1. Who was Nola Kellergan: a ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair offers tenterhooks, trump cards and enough suspense to keep you on perpetual high alert. Quebert reads like a motion picture and is a solid choice for those who love an intellectual thriller.   (Reviewed by Megan Shaffer).

Full Review Members Only (928 words).

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Dicker keeps the prose simple and the pace snappy in a plot that winds up with more twists than a Twizzler... [An] entertaining debut thriller.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. An ambitious, multilayered novel of suspense... This tale of fame, friendship, loyalty, and fiction versus reality moves at warp speed.

The Telegraph (UK)

The cleverest, creepiest book you'll read this year... Very few foreign-language novels make big waves in Anglophone countries, but this one seems genuinely likely to buck the trend.

The Times (UK)

Spellbinding . . . a top-class literary thriller . . . It is maddeningly, deliciously impossible to guess the truth.

The Observer (UK)

A phenomenon . . . A page-turner . . . Compulsively easy to read.

Sunday Express (UK)

Dicker has the first-rate crime novelist’s ability to lead his readers up the garden path. . . . An excellent story.

Le Journal du Dimanche (France)

If you dip your toes into this major novel, you're finished: you won't be able to keep from sprinting through to the last page. You will be manipulated, thrown off course, flabbergasted and amazed by the many twists and turns, red herrings and sudden changes of direction in this exuberant story.

Lire (France)

A funny, intelligent, breathtaking book within a book...There is a real joy in discovering this extraordinary novel.

L'Express (France)

A master stroke... A crime novel with not one plot line but many, full of shifting rhythms, changes of course and multiple layers that, like a Russian doll, slot together beautifully.

Paris-Match

The success story of the literary season... An American thriller reminiscent of the best work of Truman Capote.

Le Figaro (France)

Dizzying, like the best American thrillers... Rich in subplots and twists, moving backwards and forwards in time, containing books within books.

Corriere della Sera (Italy)

After The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, the contemporary novel will no longer be the same. Verdict: summa cum laude... A beautiful novel.

Stern (Germany)

Brilliantly narrated.

Die Zeit (Switzerland)

A novel with all the ingredients of a global bestseller.

Elsevier (Holland)

A story brimming with such intelligence and subtlety that you can only regret that it has to end. A novel that works on so many levels: a crime story, a love story, a comedy of manners, but equally an incisive critique of the art of the modern author.

NRC Handelsblad (Holland)

Packed with action, psychological drama and... extraordinary suspense.

Trouw (Holland)

Wonderful dialogue, colorful characters, breathtaking twists and a plot that allows no pause for breath... Everything is perfectly woven together to create an irresistible story in which absolutely nothing is as it seems.

La Vanguardia (Spain)

Never have I felt so compelled to recommend a book this highly... I was mesmerized and fascinated long after I had finished reading.

El Periódico de Catalunya (Spain)

This book will be celebrated and studied by future writers. It is a model thriller.

Reader Reviews
Joni

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair
This is the first time I can remember actually putting down a book so I didn't finish it. I wanted to make it last as long as possible. I have not been this taken with a book in a long time. Well thought out, well written, great story, great twists.   Read More

lani

Be prepared to be hooked!
Despite my non belief in the 15 year old girl's voice, I was thoroughly entranced with this novel and read all of its 640 pages in 2 days, although getting done with nothing else in my life. A perfect summer book on the beach or long plane ride where...   Read More

Barbara Z

Up all night
I couldn't put this book down! Yes, there are stereotypes, humor, satire, and creepiness. But there is a certain genius to the book as a whole package - including the cover, the layout (chapter numbers in descending rather than ascending order), the ...   Read More

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A Red Herring

A large part of the fun in reading The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is in Joel Dicker's use of red herrings. A "red herring" is a literary device that is used to keep one from reaching the correct conclusion, or to divert the reader's attention from the more important details. Quebert's plot is full of them, crafted to make each character suspect and to send the reader in a different direction at every turn. Incidentally, a MacGuffin is a particular type of red herring.

Red Herring What is an actual red herring? The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines red herring as a noun that is 1: a herring cured by salting and slow smoking to a dark brown color, and 2: [from the practice of drawing a red herring across a trail to confuse hunting dogs...

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