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Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Lies About the Harry Quebert Affair

You can't judge a book by its cover. Nor, it seems,  can you judge it by the blurb on the inside cover, by the reviews in the papers, or by the opinions of the booksellers, even when those opinions are given to you face-to-face by supposed experts.

I was in my local branch of Waterstones, a bookseller that touts its 'expert knowledge' of books as a differentiator from its lower-brow competitors. Queuing at the check-out, with Pascal's 'Pensees' in my hand, my jaundiced and rheumy eye was caught by the cover of a paperback entitled 'The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair', a tall pile of which had been stacked by the till to encourage last-second compulsive purchases. Packing  Pascal's 'Pensees' under my arm, I picked up the paperback and scanned the quotes that crammed the back cover and the first few pages: 'major literary event', 'startling talent', 'possibly the book of the year', 'expertly realised', 'top-class literary thriller', and more of the same.

A literary thriller, I thought, what could be more satisfying?

By this time I had shuffled to the head of the queue, and I asked the youngster at the check-out if she'd read the book, and was it any good. No, she hadn't read it herself, but her colleague Hayden had, and he said it was brilliant...

Ha! (laughs with derision at the memory). The Truth About the Herbert Quarry Affair is quite possibly the worst book I have ever read. It is crammed with cliché and larded with laughable metaphor.  Its plot and dialogue are as natural and convincing as Jordan's breasts. I will have more to say upon this subject tomorrow (literary criticism that is, not Jordan's breasts). In the meantime, judge for yourself. By special arrangement the book itself is available here...

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