Fans of Chocolat will not find any of the light-hearted playfulness of a quaint French village here. What the reader will find is the familiar theme of technology versus traditions, the future versus history.
Harris brings us behind the chalk-dusted walls of a proper English boys school. St. Oswald’s is built of ancient fieldstone and event older traditions and Master Straitley is the longtime Latin and classics teacher. The book alternates between his narration and an unknown voice that is writing in a diary (revealed near the end).
Straitley is nearing retirement age but he can’t imagine what he would do without his students and conjugating Latin verbs. He’s baffled by the hiring of a new Headmaster, one who was a St. Oswald’s student twenty years ago. One who Straitley taught, and hated. Johnny Harrington was never quite right and now his old master is convinced he has returned to cause mayhem once again.
When it snows, you can forget what’s hidden under the surface. Even the clay pits are beautiful under a nice fresh fall of snow. … When the sun shines it’s like everything is covered in powdered diamonds. … And the dark and lonely water is under a layer of silver lace, like a zombie bride beneath her rotten, mouldy wedding veil. ~Pg 225
The history of secrets is slowly uncovered through the duelling narratives. As the two grow closer in time, the reader begins to question the veracity of both narrators. The structure and presentation of the story are the book’s strength. Its weakness is the actual plot. Rumors, skullduggery, blackmail and murder don’t add up to anything all that interesting when you look back on it.
Read Different Class for the arrangement and cacophony of narrative voices not for the whodunit.
My thanks to Touchstone Books for the review copy.
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Touchstone (January 3, 2017)
Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches