Book Review - Different Class

by Joanne Harris (Doubleday) ISBN: 9780385619233

If you’ve read Gentlemen And Players and blueeyedboy, you will be familiar with the setting in this book, St Oswald’s Grammar School for Boys, set in the fictional Yorkshire village of Malbry.

As Joanne Harris says, ‘The books all stand alone. However, to put it into context, this book follows a year after Gentlemen And Players, and four years before blueeyedboy, and features some characters from both books.’

In Different Class, our hero, Roy Straightly has been the school’s Latin master for 30 years. He is alarmed when he finds out that the new head is a former pupil, Johnny Harrington. ‘That pale-faced, bland, insufferable boy, with his impeccable uniform and his air of barely concealed contempt. How I hated him, then and now - and as he came towards me... I felt the past rush in on me like a cloud of mustard gas.’

Roy still sees the troublemaker when he looks at the new head, but everybody else is charmed by him. Harrington has big plans to bring the school, which has suffered a number of setbacks, firmly into the 21st Century. Straightly, who remembers every detail of the scandal surrounding the boy’s time at St Oswald’s, reluctantly takes up arms against his old adversary.

Harris has written in many genres, but her strength lies in psychological suspense, of which there is plenty in this book. The twists in the plot and the skilled narrative will keep you off balance and hooked until the end. I should mention that both Gentlemen And Players and blueeyedboy are listed in the 48 books on my ‘Books I Remember’ shelf on Goodreads, so it won’t come as a surprise when I give this novel 5/5. 

Joanne Harris writes in a class of her own and I highly recommend you buy and read this book. 

Amanda Patterson 


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A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String

by Joanne Harris (Doubleday) ISBN: 9780857521200

Joanne Harris writes fabulous fables that reveal the journeys her characters take in sixteen short stories. River Song spoke to me. I felt myself slithering over smooth stones in the river. The next story brings the beach to two oldies in a home.  One tray of water for her feet makes her remember the sea.  The other blind lady has a tray of sand where her feet remember the beach. 
Meet the ghost who lives on the Twitter timeline - Joanne says no-one really dies on line – or do they?  Then there’s the story where they aren’t really selling their children, just sending them to the Promised Land.  Then, think of your road having a voice – maybe taking you home.  Joanne describes it as being still warm, like an animal.  Read on to Love me Tender reminding us of Elvis.  And then, in praise of Beech trees, which she sees as sensitive, unlike heavy Oaks.  
Each story brings an unusually gripping tale to be read, a mixture of reality and fantasy. The stories have a build-up, a fast flow of words, and a death of sorts. 

Dee Andrew

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate