A Red Herring: Background information when reading The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair

A Novel

by Joel Dicker

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2014, 656 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2014, 656 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
A Red Herring

Print Review

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]; something that distracts from the real issue

Herring, a small, pungent, oily fish, is often consumed after being heavily smoked; it turns a reddish color when cured. A kipper is a whole herring that has been sliced in half from head to tail, eviscerated, then salted and smoked. This process is known as "kippering." Technically a kipper is any fish that has been through the kippering process.

As for the etymology of the literary term, sources seem to agree that the use of "red herring" dates back to the 1800s. The origin is unknown, but theories agree that red herrings were used to throw hounds in pursuit off a given trail. Hence the metaphor when used to distract readers off the trail of clues.

Some sources suggest an alternate theory rooted in a trick a wealthy English clergyman, Jasper Mayne, played on one of his servants. When Mayne died in the late seventeenth century, he had already willed large sums for the rebuilding of London's St. Paul's Cathedral, and to the poor in his parishes. To a servant, he also bequeathed something "that would make him Drink after his Death," an item that was left in a large trunk. Much to his disappointment, all that the servant discovered was a red herring. It was a perfect example of "false representation."

Article by Megan Shaffer

This article is from the June 18, 2014 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hillbilly Elegy
    Hillbilly Elegy
    by J.D. Vance
    In this illuminating memoir, Vance recounts his trajectory from growing up a "hillbilly" in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dark Flood Rises
    The Dark Flood Rises
    by Margaret Drabble
    Margaret Drabble, the award-winning novelist and literary critic who is approaching eighty and ...
  • Book Jacket: All Our Wrong Todays
    All Our Wrong Todays
    by Elan Mastai
    You need a great deal of time to read All Our Wrong Todays, but don't let that put you off. ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Lola
    by Melissa Scrivner Love

    An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Mercies in Disguise
    by Gina Kolata

    A story of hope, a family's genetic destiny, and the science that rescued them.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Harvard is the storehouse of knowledge because the freshmen bring so much in and the graduates take so little out.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -