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
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.
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.
"Playing the readers to the end"
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.
"Worth a Listen"
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.
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.
"Fascinating, Thrilling and Different!"
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!
"Absorbing, interesting and clever"
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 haven't read the print edition. However, I have watched and read previous Joanne Harris novels and this one is VASTLY superior. I'd love to read a sequel. Perhaps, in preparation for a second career, considering his approaching retirement, Mr Straightly could take up sleuthing during the school holidays.
Hmmmm, something along the lines of Ruth Rendell, perhaps.
Steven Pacey is my favourite narrator and is the reason I bought the book in the first place. His performance is, yet again, engaging, versatile and perfectly judged.
The twist at the end was definitely a surprise!
I don't normally enjoy Joanne Harris' books. I have found the ones I have read trite, sentimental and predictable. On the evidence of this book, I need to give other novels of hers a go.
The thinkthrough-factor: the story was well conceived and the picture fitted perfectly. I wonder if I should listen it again, knowing what I know after reading it to reassess the clues given in the course of the story.
The showdown is amazing. The story unravels in a completely unpredictable, yet not unrealistic way.
It was good. Sometimes it was difficult for me (no native English speaker) to know at once from whose perspective the story was told.
"Gripping and clever"
There were times when the author racked up the tension so much I could hardly bear to keep listening. This is an amazing psychological thriller with a gasp out loud twist at the end. Dark, gripping and very well read. This is a great listen.
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