Two readers: one living in London, England, one living in Vienna, Austria, paired up to read Different Class by Joanne Harris. We dived head-first into the world of St Oswald’s Grammar, sharing our thoughts every step of the way (via Instagram). And now we share our spoiler-free thoughts on this disturbing thriller with you.
From the inside cover:
Fun Facts About Murder:
Use Coca-Cola to clean up blood spills. The combination of ascorbic acid and carbonated water actually digests the blood, leaving no trace of evidence.
After thirty-four 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 capable of twisting everything around him. A boy with hidden shadows inside.
With insolvency and academic failing 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.
After reading part 1, what were your initial/opening thoughts?
Caecilia: The book had been recommended to me by a friend saying that it is “like Hogwarts, just without the magic” – the beginning was exactly that.
Janel: The chronology in this book switches between 1981 and 2005. I really liked the use of diary entries for the narrative in ’81 as this set the tone for the book. It all felt a bit cold, a bit disturbing – and I loved it!
Were there any themes/elements you really enjoyed?
Caecilia: Harris has a fine sense of humour which is elegantly spread at certain points within the story. One of the re-occurring “figures” was definitely one that had me smiling.
Janel: I must agree with Caecilia, I really enjoyed the humour throughout the book, Harris weaved it into the story beautifully, it did not disrupt the chilling atmosphere, it rather added to it.
What did you think of the characters, did you have a favourite?
Caecilia: I could so well-relate to the main character – Mr. Straitley. My father has been a teacher for 40 years and retired only last year, in September. Many of Mr. Straitley’s topics were also, the topics my father had been fighting with – modern technology, the death of classic subjects, etc.
Janel: While I didn’t particularly warm to/like any of the characters, I felt they were all well-developed.
Have your say:
Caecilia: When I started reading this book, I had almost no expectations. I only knew that it was a crime book. Harris’s writing is easy to read, but all the nicknames took a while for me to remember. That was the only minus point that comes to mind. I have enjoyed this book much more than I had thought I would … and can only recommend fans of crime and mystery (with style) to also read it.
Janel: Oh the slow-building, unsettling, suspense, what a cleverly crafted story! After the first revelation, I thought yep, I know how the rest of this story plays out from here, I was wrong, Harris surprised me yet again. I do echo Caecilia’s words regarding the nicknames, there were quite a few to remember.
What did you think of the ending?
Caecilia: This book answers the questions which come up, while reading. Anything further would be spoiling, which I certainly want to avoid. I hope many readers get to read this book.
Janel: This is a well-rounded novel that certainly satisfies. It’s not your “typical” psychological thriller but it’s certainly a dark one.
Caecilia: “God likes to make things difficult. Instead of making people good, he gave us the illusion of choice.”
Janel: “I’d been playing out in such a notorious spot, and with boys of a Different Class.” (I absolutely love when the author uses the title of the book in the story!)
Would you recommend this book?
Caecilia: Absolutely. To fans of general and literary fiction – the scholastic aura reminded me of The Secret History by Donna Tartt. So, perhaps this is a book that would be particularly, enjoyed by fans of The Secret History.
Janel: I highly recommend this book, literary fiction meets crime fiction in this unsettling thriller.
This book is available to buy now from: Amazon UK
I would like to thank Caecilia for reading this book with me and agreeing to feature on my blog; it was great to have someone to share thoughts and predictions with! To see what Caecilia’s reading next and to keep up with all her bookish activity, click here to follow her on Instagram.