Alienor's Reviews > La Vérité sur l'affaire Harry Quebert

La Vérité sur l'affaire Harry Quebert by Joël Dicker
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did not like it
bookshelves: crime, yaaaaawn, cannot-express-how-much-i-hate-it, why-the-hype, reviewed, white-male-angst

** spoiler alert ** OH MY GOD IT'S SO BAD

Spare yourselves; do not buy this book. It was almost physically painful to finish. If this is the yardstick by which we measure books these days, I'll just lock myself into past centuries and NEVER COME OUT. What on earth caused this book to receive such acclaim???

So, just to get it out of the way, the construction kind of stands, although I'd have to think about even that. It's a little grotesquely baroque, with everyone seemingly having had a hand in the murder that 'fateful day', but ok for now.

But the rest.... In no particular order, and with plenty of spoilers, probably - it's not as if I care

- writers are NOT interesting main characters, and this one in particular takes the cherry; self-absorbed, vain, narcissistic, with every sycophantic character telling him how wonderful, talented, smart, 'Magnificent' (sic!!!) he is - and that goes for the OTHER writer in the book, Harry Québert, whose 15-year old lover seemed to have been put on this earth only to fawn over, praise and massage his ego. The main character 'wants to be a writer more than anything else in the world' and there is much inane talk/Hallmark life lessons about writing.... Ok, but writing what??? What was his 'fabulous first book' all about anyway?? What is his substance??
He reminds me of kids who want to be rock stars for the fame and never think for a second about the music - It's all about the packaging with Marcus Goldman - oh and let's not forget the crowds of New Yorkers who mob him with questions - with actors, maaaaybe, even though New Yorkers are WAY TOO COOL to crowd celebrities thank you very much, but WRITERS?? How many would you even recognize???
Also, within the very first chapter, we learn he's all about his Italian shoes, expensive NY apartment and trophy girlfriend, while being a self-aggrandizing whiny lying cheating asshole - I can't believe there's a rule (Hallmark lesson on writing) at the end of the book about hooking readers in the first chapter - I suggest likeable characters!!
So a writer writing about a writer writing about a writer... God knows I love books but even I found this a bit indigestible.

- laughable secondary characters; the Jewish mother skit, the 'frustrated but deep', loud, manipulative bar owner - OH COME ON. It sounds like those Hollywood movies with 40 writers, one of which has to shoehorn comic relief in there, so you get a tap dancing number in a concentration camp. .... Also the Republican lawyer who has a cash machine where his heart should be, the threatening, grandiose, immoral publisher - none of which is deep enough to understand TRU LUV.

- which brings me, inevitably to the 'love' (sic) story. Oh please. I'm writhing inside. While I very much accept that age difference is not an impediment to Luv, a 34-year old 'falling in luv' with a teenager because she's 'dancing in the rain' (sic) sounds like... drumroll... INFATUATION, or LUST. Mister bigshot writer (which one? Does it matter?) should have a way with words, but seems utterly incapable of self-analysis, diagnostic, soul-searching etc.
And from there we get the MOST INANE dialogues I have EVER read outside of Barbara Cartland books. Even 33 YEARS later, the dude wallows in self-pity and 'she's the only one I'll ever love' whines that would make me want to smash a baby into a wall. Why were you in Luv, exactly? 'Cause she made you sandwiches and 'took care of you'??? I kid you not, this is what their whole relationship is about, and - wait for it - they only hang out for THREE MONTHS.
Also, the kid is (spoiler, but do you care at this point?) orphaned and suffers from psychotic breaks - is there anything that screams 'victim' any louder to you? And did Harry Québert actually KNOW Nola, and these 'little details' about her? Of course not, his gigantic EGO was in the way! Ach, it reminds me of Lars von Trier movies.
So, ok, you may be attracted to someone 20 years your junior. But if that someone fits the description above and has massively crushed on you - well, I've got news buster; you're just exploiting someone's vulnerabilities, and the fact that you throw the rest of your whole life away afterwards doesn't make your Luv 'more sacred'. It just makes you a creep who is unable to deal with reality and leads you to befriend only ONE person for the rest of your life, another creep, strangely.

- When. Does. The. Police. Ever. Let. A. Civilian. Lead. An. Investigation???? Especially in the US of A???? You have got to be kidding me.

- oh the writing, oh the writing... Find me ONE teenager in the 70s who called her lover 'dârling' and said things like 'you're so beastly!'
It sounds so sickeningly fake! I'll take an inch out of my sting because I read a translated version, but still - both English AND French are my maternal languages and as I was trying to go back and forth to imagine what the translator could have improved I was left in the dust. Oh, the maudlin, immature, 'poor-me' waterfalls in this book - oh what about the editing, the verbatim copies of previous pages - oh the psychological characterizations and depth that could fit in a thimble, oooh.


It was atrocious. I can't believe this even got published. Maybe because there are publisher characters in there? Maybe because Dicker held someone's mother for blackmail? I simply do not get it.
Read anything else.

And sorry for the screaming.
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Reading Progress

June 25, 2014 – Started Reading
June 25, 2014 – Shelved
June 25, 2014 – Shelved as: crime
June 25, 2014 –
page 106
15.77% "Hum, not enjoying it so much - the writing is terrible (maybe from the translation?... But no, not really) and the main character is a vain, narcissistic prick - so far"
June 25, 2014 –
page 297
44.2% "Ooooooh, the writing is SO bad my eyes hurt"
June 25, 2014 – Shelved as: yaaaaawn
June 25, 2014 – Shelved as: cannot-express-how-much-i-hate-it
June 25, 2014 – Finished Reading
July 1, 2014 – Shelved as: why-the-hype
July 2, 2014 – Shelved as: reviewed
November 2, 2014 – Shelved as: white-male-angst

Comments Showing 1-50 of 105 (105 new)


Catherine Thank you!! You just spared me having to write a review to warn anyone who (like me) might otherwise be taken in by the comparison to Steig Larson. This was terrible, terrible, terrible!!!! Maybe the translation has something to do with the ridiculously bad, stupid prose and even worse dialogue, but you can't blame the translator for the stupid, stupid use of all these devices - flashing back and forth and changing voice all the time. Ugh! The arc of the story isn't bad, itself. It could have been a lot better if it was told in a better way. There is no suspense, the characters are one-dimensional and not interesting in any way, it was boring and stupid. I kept persevering, think that there was going to be some point at which it would all be redeemed, but no. It was bad right through to the end. I think an average middle-schooler could have done more with this story.


Alienor Thank you Catherine for your comment - and glad to see I'm not completely alone when saying 'the Emperor has no clothes'!!


Barbara The dialog is appalling and while the plot and it's twists are interesting, the poor writing really made it difficult for me to get through this book. The Jewish mother was pure sitcom and totally unnecessary. The dialog of the female characters in particular was unbearable. It felt juvenile (check out the dialog between Nola and Harry on page 136) and I wondered if some of that was the fault of the translator. And then there's Luther whose dialog reads like the village monster. Ugh!

Theres a quote on the back of the paperback edition: The great thriller everyone has been waiting for sine the Millennium trilogy of Stieg Larsson." Please. Not even close.


Alienor Barbara, I read it on Kindle so I do not have the page numbers, but each dialogue was its own special brand of suffering to my fevered mind...;o)
I am still wondering how he got so many publishers to endorse him. Utter mystery!


Sasha Seriously I'm trying to force my way through this thing but I agree with everything you've said. The author clearly spent a few summers in the U.S. and formed some wacko opinions about America. It's so bizarre. The discussions about the law with Harry's lawyer also make me want to tear my hair out (I'm a lawyer). I'm curious about how it all ends but then I might burn it.


Alienor Sasha, good luck. And let us know how you make it through the end...;0)


Lauwie hahaha, I couldn't agree more. How can this ever have won a major price like the one the of the Academie Française?


Katherine Absolutely agree with everything you've said. I've never written a review on Goodreads but felt so strongly about this one that I just had to comment. I kept thinking that maybe I should give the writing a pass since I read a translation. However, that can't account for how contrived and trite this book is. For instance, every single "worthwhile" piece of advice Harry gives "Marcus the Magnificent" (ugh...) that is really just a reworded, well-known cliche. I've never rolled my eyes so many times. I debated giving it two stars simply because I wanted so badly to get to the end. But being a page-turner just can't redeem all that was awful about this book.


Sabine The award for this book should've gone to your review! Loved it and will read it again for sure. The book was a waste of time, money and space in my luggage.. No words for it.


Alienor Ow thanks;0)
I try not to write negative reviews in general... but this one wrote itself;0))



message 11: by Lucia (new) - rated it 1 star

Lucia I've almost finished the book... and I can't but agree with you!! It IS really bad.


message 12: by Mark (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mark Totally agree with all the comments about this book. I think people have been dumbed down by Dan Brown books and haven't read enough "good" fiction to appreciate how great some books are. Just because a book sells well doesn't mean it's good!


message 13: by Mark (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mark Totally agree with all the comments about this book. I think people have been dumbed down by Dan Brown books and haven't read enough "good" fiction to appreciate how great some books are. Just because a book sells well doesn't mean it's good!


message 14: by Am (new) - rated it 1 star

Am Yes. Agree with everything said here. The only positive thing I was able to glean from purchasing this giant turd was the laughter that ensued when I read Nola-Harry dialogue out loud to whatever poor victim was nearby. Felt like I was reading a script for All My Children.


Alienor Ha ha ha!!!


Alienor Ha ha ha!!!


message 17: by Marcia (new)

Marcia Naidich wagshol Picked it up at the library to read on a trip, but I gave up midway through. The plot is simplistic, the characters have no depth, and frankly I was bored to tears. Terrible book


Somia I agree with you. This book is TERRIBLE and trust me the translation has nothing to do with that. I'm reading (=struggling to finish) it in French and almost every dialogue makes me wanna strangle myself.


Francesco Zampa I only can say that it's impossible to understand (before) why a book (or a movie) will be successfully, and you can't misure the goodness of any book from the success.
More, I believe that Frenchs tast about telling (and eating, and singing) is different from us Italians and other people too: lightly humour, lightly drama, and particular, French flavours. This colud become very heavy in another cases (The Damage). But this is a French author who try an American-French-way, good for Europeans, I think, not for Americans.


Claudio Calzi I found it a beautiful book.


message 21: by Mary (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mary Haines You obviously waded through it!!! I tend to agree with you although I did simply finish it like you do when watching a bad film


Carina I actually liked this book... I read the original, perhaps the translation is not so good? But I must afmit I also liked Stieg Larsson.


message 23: by Lei (new) - rated it 1 star

Lei I am listening to the audiobook and at about 16% of the way through, like you, I am wondering how this got published to such acclaim. The main character is written badly - it's not just that HE's vapid but that the WRITING is. The stereotypes are awful. And as you point out, writing about a writer writing about a writer - could this break any more rules on what NOT to submit? I mean, if it were well done, great. But this is awful. I don't know if I want to lose another minute of my life to this book. (And as someone who LIVES in Montclair and LIVED in Brooklyn, there is NO TRAIN from Montclair to Brooklyn and the trip would take more than an hour. I hate when people screw up those details. Ugh.)


Alienor Ha ha, Lei, I missed that last detail, thank you for the info;0)
In a nutshell, there are so many things that are wrong with this book... I would say drop it, or just keep going if you want to feed your inner sarcasm beast...;0)

Carina - no worries, seriously, you may like anything you want! It can make for more spirited discussions afterwards. But with this book I'm showing up with a tank and napalm!


Alienor Ha ha, Lei, I missed that last detail, thank you for the info;0)
In a nutshell, there are so many things that are wrong with this book... I would say drop it, or just keep going if you want to feed your inner sarcasm beast...;0)

Carina - no worries, seriously, you may like anything you want! It can make for more spirited discussions afterwards. But with this book I'm showing up with a tank and napalm!


Joodith Eleanor - thank you, THANK YOU for this hilarious review! Love it more than the book which I'm about halfway through and wondering why the hell I decided to read it. I keep reading bits of it to my husband because He can't understand why I'm sitting hear snorting with laughter. It's SO bad it is quite funny, so I've decided to approach it as a comic soap opera...


Alienor I'm glad I can be a comic relief;0) It's funny, when I write kind reviews no one really cares, but this - my 'worst';0) - is really the most 'successful' one. I am glad we're all sharing a laugh!!


Joodith Elanor wrote: "I'm glad I can be a comic relief;0) It's funny, when I write kind reviews no one really cares, but this - my 'worst';0) - is really the most 'successful' one. I am glad we're all sharing a laugh!!"

I find that too - I seem to have more fun with negative reviews and they often attract the most comments, whereas if I've really enjoyed a book no-notices. Weird or what!

I'm just writing my review of this awful piece of drivel...but it won't match yours :)


Hannah Hahaha! Well done! Brilliant review! Wish I'd read your review while I was reading the damn book. I kept stopping and googling 'review Joel dicker' because I couldn't believe how bad it was and wondered if there was some kind of deep comment on society that I'd missed from a literal meaning... Or if there was a great reveal later on. I also really really really wanted to say to someone else "oh my god this is awful isn't it?!" But although some reviews criticised it slightly, most just talked about the great success Joel Dicker has had, what a young, good looking, amiable man he is, blah blah. WHO CARES if the book is terrible?! Honestly.
I kept reading it because I wanted to know what happened to Nora, so that says something in the book's favour, but only in the same way that Dan Brown's books are popular.
I wanted Nora to turn out to be a devious schemer who'd planned the whole thing and actually was still alive, loving the attention. But no.


message 30: by Velia (new) - rated it 1 star

Velia Penza I totally agree with you. Marcus is vain, narcissistic, selfish and mean. I'm assuming it was supposed to come out as a flawled human being with whom all of us can identify with, but it doesn't. Simply because EVERY OTHER CHARACTER IN THE BOOK (even the cop for fuck's sake) is immediately stucked in awe as soon as they meet him, and keeps on ranting about how talented and wonderful he is. And this is true also for Henry Quèbert, who is basically an older version of Marcus. Both of them want desperately to be writers, but apparently just for the sake of fame and richness. They don't have a single idea about WHAT to write, or WHY. Why should we care about what you have to say? Why is it important? What are the stories they desperately need to tell the world? I understand that you don't necessarily need good characters to be good persons, but the thing is, this point of view is never denied or discussed by anyone in the book. That's it: you write because you get to be famous and rich then, and people envy you and you can buy nice things. Which is pretty stupid in a book that desperately tries to put its two cents about the creative process and the art of writing.


badcat LOL! I love this review! you are absolutely right! !!


message 32: by Pamela (new) - added it

Pamela Stupidly bought this book.....but after two chapters I have put it in my send to charity box. I really wish I had read these reviews first! How has this been so successful? There is literally no way in to this book. Unreadable!


message 33: by Beto (new) - rated it 3 stars

Beto Mon I actually liked and enjoyed the book, but I agree with your review. I really hated how narcissistic the main character is and the way he would state that his writing is magnificent, when, honestly, Dicker's writing is not. I really disliked the random change of voices and other aspects of the book. However, I found it a good thriller.


message 34: by Kevin (new) - rated it 1 star

Kevin Totally agree with the negative reviews of this garbage. The writing is TRULY AWFUL. The dialogue even worse. I haven't read anything this atrociously written, insultingly bad, or irritatingly smug since, ooooh.........Gone Girl.
Thinking about it, this is worse, but it's a close call.


message 35: by Kevin (new) - rated it 1 star

Kevin Totally agree with the negative reviews of this garbage. The writing is TRULY AWFUL. The dialogue even worse. I haven't read anything this atrociously written, insultingly bad, or irritatingly smug since, ooooh.........Gone Girl.
Thinking about it, this is worse, but it's a close call.


Chiara Brunelli Io personalmente l'ho trovato molto interessante e capace di catturare la tua attenzione dalla prima pagina fino alla fine.


Noemie Passelande I get it if you don't like it. But if French is also your maternal language, why bother with the translation??


Alienor Accident;0)


Debbie Bryant Please don't let poor reviews put you off. I fave this 5 stars. I found it to be a real page turner (and there's over 600 of them!) I read in a week over Christmas. I think the reference on the cover to it being like a Russian Doll is very true. I found it intreaguing. Please read and make your own mind up. I am bereft now I have finished it!


Michael Couldn't agree more. I'm about to write a spoiler-free review in the hopes that more people might avoid making the same mistake we did and reading this nonsense. How did it win so many awards?


Guilherme Mira Amazing Book, try reading it again, it might work.


message 42: by Nick (new) - rated it 1 star

Nick Duretta Thanks for confirming everything I felt about this piece of garbage. Certainly the worst professionally published book I have ever read.


message 43: by Kate (new)

Kate I read captions aloud to my boyfriend too. Hilarious! Awful book full of clichés. This is only the second book that I could not finish reading and I can tolerate some drivel in order to finish a novel. I enjoyed Gone Girl although it was flawed and had unlikeable characters - this was unbearable.


Sandra Ström You nailed my thoughts exactly!


message 45: by Ju (new) - rated it 1 star

Ju Oak Totally totally agree! Who wasted their time and money to even publish this pile of crap!


Stacey Matthews Thank you for this, you have written exactly what I was thinking. This boom really frustrated me and I never saw evidence for the 'love' anywhere.


message 47: by Katy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy Ok I'm 100 pages into it and although I see where you are coming from re cliche and people speaking in a phoney way- tho 15 year olds do speak in a phoney way a lot - I wouldn't say it is SO bad. Not bad at all and very readable. There are loads of books I can't bring myself to read past the first couple of paragraphs and this isn't one of them. I like the writing style. A bit like Donna tart. Your appraisal seems a bit harsh.


Elisabeth You covered exactly how I felt about it! And I read it in French - just as excruciating. I finished because I can't help wanting to know the end (though I seriously considered googling it several times, 800+ pages, seriously), and even that (spoiler) was disappointing. very mundane in the end, with a whole bunch of people who just got lucky not to be caught. there was no clever cover up or tricks a la bussi. so disappointing. at least I get a book count it of it...


message 49: by FM (new) - rated it 1 star

FM Yes, Yes, YES!!!!! Ohmigod, I hated this book with a passion. I just wrote a similarly scathing review. (I always write a review before I see what other people have said.) It makes me feel better to know that you had the same reaction to it. Thank you for restoring my hope in humanity and literature.


Dikra my friend and I started a read along for this book and I honestly can't finish it , but I have too . I wish I had read your review earlier .


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