Joanne Harris is, of course, best known for Chocolat
-- a novel that brought readers quite as much pleasure as the substance after which it was named (and which became an equally successful movie). But is Joanne Harris’ authentic voice as an author the one that we hear in that book? Almost certainly not -- with Blueeyedboy
, the second of Harris’ psychological thrillers, it is becoming clearer that the dark, threatening world she conveys in her second series of books is more provocative and disturbing than anything Chocolat
might have led us to expect from her.
As in its predecessor, we are back in the Yorkshire town of Malbry, and in the company of a young man whose behaviour verges on the sociopathic. BB is in his 40s, still living with his mother and making his living with an unrewarding (in every sense) hospital job. His ‘real’ world is a virtual one. On a website which he has called ‘badguysrock’, he has an avatar -- and as the blueeyedboy of the title, he deals in deeply unsettling violent scenarios which feature people from his own life. As we enter deeper into this murky world, we learn other equally disturbing facts. BB has an unhealthy relationship with his mother, whose violent, controlling behaviour is some kind of a pointer to the unhappy man he has become as an adult. What's more, he appears to be the only surviving brother of a group of three. His dead brothers were named after the colours in which their mother dressed them, and had died in mysterious circumstances. There are so many off-kilter aspects to this world that readers will quickly discern it is only a matter of time before something very nasty happens.
Like Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory, Harris provides us with a narrator we cannot trust -- the only thing certain is that chaos and destruction lie at the heart of this queasy narrative. Harris’ book demands patience and does not render up all its secrets immediately, but those who respond to unusual, transgressive fiction will find it worth persevering; Harris has a mesmerising tale to tell. And be assured -- Chocolat this isn't. --Barry Forshaw
--This text refers to the
"Delivers an almighty twist in the tale late on...brilliantly atmospheric and at times heartbreaking" (The Times
"An ingenious, gripping read...it terrified the living daylights out of me" (Daily Express
"Brilliantly written, plotted and insightful...beware unreliable narrators along with a huge plot twist at the end" (Mirror
"Engrossing psychological thriller...a novel of unusual complexity...Harris, best known for Chocolat
, again shows her skill and versatility" (Mail on Sunday
"Beautifully written...a rewarding read" (Guardian