In the summer of 1975 in New Hampshire a 15 year old Nola Kellergan vanished without a trace. In 2008 her body is found and Harry Quebert, famous writer, becomes the main suspect. Marcus Goldman, Harry’s friend and protégé, fighting with his writing block, rushes to Somerset to find out the truth.
The story meanders between 1975, when Nola disappeared, 1998 when Harry met (no, not Sally) Marcus and 2008 when Marcus tries to find out the truth and writes his book. Marcus recounts the story of his friendship with Harry, as well as his past and the investigation. Three and sometimes four time layers intertwine, but never lose sense of continuity or become distracting, Dicker knows when to move on to the next one.
I recently read The Human Stain by Philip Roth and found some parallels to it in Harry Quebert Affair: trauma of Clinton affair used as showcase of America’s hypocrisy. In both books the narrator is a writer and in both of them they dig into the past of their friend with a deeply hidden secret. Maybe the most interesting parallel is that in both books main character was in a relationship that was not and never will be approved by the community in which he lives. It may seem superficial and in towards the end of the book those common traits are not so obvious, but somehow they resonated with me.
Harry Quebert Affair is a book about many things, such as friendship, love, being a writer; it is also a whodunnit story. Marcus describes how he became who he is, how Harry got where he is, but his main goal is to understand what exactly happened and who killed Nola…and to write a book. The book touches on many topics but it doesn’t go too deep, good decision, if it did then the investigation part would lose momentum and became boring.
I like a good crime story, so I really enjoyed all the red herrings and plot twists. Relationship between Harry and Marcus was also interesting, but I’m not sure if how it finished convinced me.
Nola was a fantastic creation, character that initially seems so simple and obvious gradually becomes more and more convoluted and her complexity sits at the heart of the whole story. One thing that I couldn’t buy into, but that’s my black heart probably, was relationship between Harry and Nola, their neverending love. More than once I was annoyed by oversweetened dialogues, especially when Harry was telling Marcus about Nola.
On another level it is sort of a fairy tale with a moral: Your past WILL catch up with you, no matter what you do.
Maybe not a masterpiece, but definitely a great read.
Have you read it? What do you think?