Thursday, 10 March 2016

Book Review: DIFFERENT CLASS by Joanne Harris

Different Class

Title: Different Class
Author: Joanne Harris
Publisher: Doubleday
Read: March 2016
Expected publication: 21 April 2016

Synopsis (Goodreads):

After thirty years at St Oswald’s Grammar in North Yorkshire, Latin master Roy Straitley has seen all kinds of boys come and go. Each class has its clowns, its rebels, its underdogs, its ‘Brodie’ boys who, whilst of course he doesn’t have favourites, hold a special place in an old teacher’s heart. But every so often there’s a boy who doesn’t fit the mould. A troublemaker. A boy with hidden shadows inside.

With insolvency and academic failure looming, a new broom has arrived at the venerable school, bringing Powerpoint, sharp suits and even sixth form girls to the dusty corridors. But while Straitley does his sardonic best to resist this march to the future, a shadow from his past is stirring. A boy who even twenty years on haunts his teacher’s dreams. A boy capable of bad things. 

My thoughts:

In Different Class, Joanne Harris takes us back into the halls of St Oswald’s Grammar School, the setting of her previous novel Gentlemen and Players. Readers of the first book in the series will be familiar with one of the main narrators, Latin master Roy Straitley, a dedicated teacher who once again has to put up a fight to save his beloved school from scandal and progress, which threatens traditions that are the very fabric of St Oswald’s. Following an incident at the school the previous year, a new headmaster has been employed to raise the school’s profile and bring it into the 21st century. Straitley, who recognises the new head as Johnny Harrington, an ex-pupil he had never really warmed to, soon realises that his fight to keep up tradition and his loyalty to an old friend accused of a terrible crime now threaten his position at the school. At the same time, a menacing shadow from the past resurfaces, and murder and mayhem once again befall St Oswald’s.

Told through the eyes of Straitley and a mystery narrator, the story switches back and forth in time, slowly revealing the events of the past that have led to St Oswald’s being under attack. Harris knows how to build tension, and the menace in the story of the mystery narrator is unmistakable. Interpersonal relationships, especially between pupils and teachers, feature strongly in the novel, raising many contemporary issues such as bullying, religion, gender and sexuality crises and the political climate changing the face of education today. Personally, I thought that some parts of the novel were a bit too long, which diluted the building tension and shadow of menace hanging over the school and its occupants – a bit of careful editing could easily fix that. Otherwise, Harris has once again produced a gripping psychological thriller that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Gentlemen and Players. Although it can be read as a stand-alone novel, I would recommend picking up the previous book in the series to become familiar with the setting and the characters, and settle in for a dark and gripping read.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

1 comment:

  1. Yes I agree a bit of carefully used editing would have made the book more enjoyable and tension building.
    Also not being a Latin scholar I would have liked an explanation at the start of each chapter..