Tuesday, 21 June 2022

I'm reviewing A Narrow Door...

 ... by Joanne Harris on my blog today.  And what a read it is, too...

This is the third book in which we pay a visit to St Oswald’s school in Malbry.  And again Roy Straitley is the Latin Master at the centre of the story.  The other two books, A Different Class and Gentlemen and Players, don’t need to be read before this one as each story is a stand-alone novel in their own rights.  However, it is helpful if you have the background knowledge of Straitley’s character.
For me, this book was an eagerly awaited read and I was not disappointed.  The time frame is now 2006 and things have changed at St Oswald’s.  The previously male dominated society of the school and the staffroom has been invaded by females and the new head is also a woman.
Told from two points of view – something that Harris is an absolute master of – it is quite clear from the outset that Straitley and ‘La Buckfast’ as he refers to his new superior are going to lock horns.  Roy makes it quite clear that he is resentful of the new regime and the planned changes to the curriculum.  He clearly plans to carry on in exactly the same way as he has always done.
The New Headmistrees – whom Roy deliberately addresses as Headmaster whenever he speaks to her – has other ideas.  She fully intends to leave her mark on the school and no-one, not even Straitley, is going to get in her way  But ‘La Buckfast’ has a past, a past that she doesn’t want to reveal and when the body of a boy is discovered during the course of excavations for the building of a new swimming pool, that past begins to invade her every day life.  Old memories are disturbed, uncertainties raised and a secret she has kept hidden for decades begins to surface.
Although set in 2006, the story moves backwards and forwards in time as the details of Buckfast’s past are slowly and tantalisingly revealed.
The story is really well plotted and the dynamics between the two central characters are played out brilliantly throughout the novel  Roy’s grudging acceptance of La Buckfast is gradual but he knows there’s something she is hiding and he is determined to find out what it is.  With the detemination of a dog with a bone, Straitley gradually collects the tiny pieces of information together and the story reaches a unexpected ending.

A brilliant read and I thoroughly enjoyed being back at the school with Mr Straitley.

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