1 July 2010
Review - blueeyedboy, Joanne Harris
Once there was a widow with three sons, and their names were Black, Brown, and Blue. Black was the eldest; moody and aggressive. Brown was the middle child; timid and dull. But Blue was his mother's favourite. And he was a murderer.
Joanne Harris says that in writing this novel she cultivated a secret online life.
Under a pseudonym, I made a number of online friends, wrote a great deal of fanfic, and began to take an increasing interest in the way people interact online, the communities they create and join, and the way they choose to portray themselves.
The reader "constructs" Blue through his blog posts and the way he interacts with friends online. This is how we learn about his brothers, his mother, and his life history. Blue and his friends play mind games, and it becomes difficult for the reader to tell fact from fiction. Nobody in this psychological thriller is quite what they seem and there is really no straightforward narration either, in fact it is hard to tell whether the narrator of the moment is reliable or not. The novel seems to have a structure, but in the long run even that is a bit of an illusion. It feels a bit like a snaggled skein of wool. At the end your mind will feel exercised as you attempt to impose some order on what you are told.
blueeyedboy is not a quick read. But it is not just the length. If you are like me, you'll find yourself re-reading bits just to make sure you got that quite right. Harris herself likens the novel to a Chinese puzzle box. So take it slowly and patiently. Murder did happen, but whose was it? There are plenty of deaths. Murders are plotted. Lives are destroyed.
My rating: 4.5
Joanne Harris talks about blueeyedboy.
Review on Euro Crime by Michelle Peckham.
mini-reviews of other novels by Joanne Harris
CHOCOLAT (Audio CD), my rating 4.5
Vianne Rocher, with her small daughter Anouk, arrives at a small French village on a festival day leading up to Christmas. She decides to stay and sets up a chocolaterie in the square directly opposite the church. As Lent approaches the village priest identifies her as a corrupting influence, confirmed in his mind when Vianne decides to have an Easter Chocolate Festival. Is this a mystery book? - some would say not - but there is plenty of mystery, even an old case of murder - and who is the old priest in a coma whom Father Reynaud visits on such a regular basis? Is Vianne herself who she thinks she is? Beautifully read by Juliet stevenson - a BBC Audiobook on 8 CDs.
GENTLEMEN & PLAYERS, my rating 4.8
The new academic year is beginning at St. Oswald’s expensive and exclusive school for boys. Roy Straitley, Classics master, is fighting to survive in a world that sees French and German as more relevant than the Latin he has taught for the last 33 years. The new year brings with it new students and new teachers including one that has got the job on the basis of false credentials. This teacher is dedicated not to the advancement of education at St. Oswald’s, but to bringing St. Oswald’s down. Little things begin to go wrong, a boy nearly dies, Straitley has a heart scare a few weeks before his 65th birthday, and then the stage is set for major catastrophe. It seems very probable Roy will not achieve his “century” and that St. Oswald’s will not survive a series of crises. The plotting in this novel is intricate, the author is determined not to reveal who the pretender is, and then all climaxes on Roy’s birthday. And look out for the little hints: the chapter headings, the chess icons, and the clever play on words.