I am incredibly excited to be on the blog tour for Bloody Scotland 2022 to tell you about Will Carver and Joanne Harris. This post will be about Joanne Harris, a further one will inform you about Will Carver, but let me tell you a little about the festival first.
Bloody Scotland turns an stunning 10 years old this year and is more than established itself as a firm favourite of Crime Authors and Readers in Stirling. This year it is kicking off from Thursday 15th running to Sunday 18th September 2022. This amazing festival brings Stirling to life with fabulous venues at The Golden Lion Hotel, The Albert Halls and The Tolbooth, all on close proximity of each other.
Meet The Panel – Joanne Harris and Janice Hallett
Sunday 18th September
11:30am – 12:30pm
Joanne Harris is the author of 22 novels, including Chocolat which was made into an Oscar-nominated movie. Her books have been published in over 50 countries and won a succession of British and international awards. Her latest novel is the compulsive A Narrow Door, the remains of a body unleash buried secrets in St Oswald’s School. Janice Hallett’s twisty debut The Appeal was the Sunday Times Crime Book of the Year and firmly established her as a writer to watch. Her bestselling new novel, The Twyford Code, is a fiendishly clever tale of a disgraced author, a missing schoolteacher and an ex-con desperate to solve a baffling, decades-old puzzle.
The event will be chaired by Dan Simpson of the Writer’s Routine podcast.
Now I’m in charge, the gates are my gates. The rules are my rules.
It’s an incendiary moment for St Oswald’s school. For the first time in its history, a headmistress is in power, the gates opening to girls.
Rebecca Buckfast has spilled blood to reach this position. Barely forty, she is just starting to reap the harvest of her ambition. As the new regime takes on the old guard, the ground shifts. And with it, the remains of a body are discovered.
But Rebecca is here to make her mark. She’ll bury the past so deep it will evade even her own memory, just like she has done before. After all…
You can’t keep a good woman down.
I have read more Joanne Harris’s books for at least 20 years. Each one I hear of being published is cause for great excitement and joy! She is a admirable in what she crafts out of words, different places, different times, different people to create many stories and the imagery she places in reader’s minds, using many genres and themes; be the setting in France, the UK or the worlds created in Norse Mythology or those in The Child Ballads.
When I first picked up one of her books, I knew this was an author I wanted to read more from. Under the guise of lovely settings are powerful themes that resonates universally. Each book is compulsive reading in many ways and allows readers to explore, not only the different characters and settings she creates, but also different parts of society. Each book, whether it is stand-alone or a series has themes that are identifiable and that people can relate to as she pulls back the curtain and sheds light on society, it’s attitudes, it’s strengths and weaknesses, communities coming together or being divided and so much more. I think, after so many years, it is safe to say that Joanne Harris and her books have longevity, each standing the test of time thus far and perhaps that and that they’re compulsive reading, is in part why.
I cannot wait to read what comes next… For now, here is my review of A Narrow Door. Below this, find out more about some of the books I have reviewed.
Step through A Narrow Door with all its symbolism and connotations, and a lot awaits…
The book is split into 8 parts, plus a preface and epilogue. Each part is named after something in Greek Mythology and written in English underneath. It’s eyecatching, as you’d think it is, but even more so because of this as it’s different. The narrative here and throughout is strong and compulsive. Hours disappeared into the midst of time whilst reading this book.
No longer is St. Oswalds an all boys grammar school. It is now an academy with a female headmaster at the helm and females can now enter and be educated there with the boys.
This is an absolutely powerful book, even from the preface. Mr Straitley is still around as are a few other staff as are some of the group of boys known as “Brodie Boys”.
The future and the past merges together with old school ties and her new start and then a body is discovered adding an air of mystery to the changes in the school life with the rise of a Rebecca Buckfast.
Merged into the story, that has its mystery, there are also themes of strong females, how they are perceived and some of the myths. It does this very quickly and starkly in the preface, especially. It is written in the most fantastic, mature and knowledgeable way and also leads very well into the rest of, what turns out to be a twisty and compelling, involving complex thriller.
The writing; the air that it brings is powerful and absolutely all encompassing. It demands and captures attention from the beginning. It doesn’t let go. It seeps into your mind and all your senses in one way or another. It puts readers right back to the heart of St. Oswalds, an all boys school that exudes a certain stature and power, but one that wasn’t without its issues. Now the school is changing, catching up with the times.
This is absolutely marvellous writing throughout and the book is pretty hard to put down.
The years go between 1989 and 2006, showing what became tradition and what the school’s future holds as co-education begins as an academy with a female headmaster – Rebecca Buckfast (yes, headmaster and not headmistress. This isn’t a typo), at the helm and she is not to be underestimated. There’s a determination, a resilience in the school and the new headmaster is on a mission! Roy Straitley has a strong view on women and she is set to try and change that. She doesn’t want to let anything get in her way, not even the matter of a body.
Rebecca Buckfast isn’t, however, without her own personal things to deal with. Conrad, her brother, went missing years ago, there’s also the heartbreak and the hope of her parents that she still needs to contend with. There’s some great twists and turns where Conrad is concerned. He had gone to King Henry’s Grammar School for Boys, not St. Oswalds. So, now Rebecca has ties with both and a fight on her hands with both schools.
A Narrow Door is thought-provoking as it takes readers through to a school where nothing is as expected as it tightly twists and turns, holding readers captive in its grasp until its fantastic and fitting end.