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on 4 January 2010
Cook is a really good writer, who describes his books as character driven psychological dramas, where bad things happen, rather than crime novels

This book shares some devices with Masters of the Delta - the relationship between a schoolboy and teacher is central, the story is narrated by an old man looking back on his youth and the teacher in question tells violent stories from history to their pupils.

Set in 1927, it follows the transforming effect that his relationship with a beautiful, unorthodox teacher has on a boy from a staid, constricted background. His father is a headmaster in a small town in Maine. He is seduced by her freedom and liberalism and is swept away with the romanticism of her life, with devastating effect.

It is a slow book, with a wonderful sense of place, which really makes it. The ending was not entirely convincing to me and some of the twists were well signposted.

Even so, it is a pretty good book and recommended. I actually think this would make a great film.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 August 2008
Brilliant, again. Cook's formula and writing style admittedly have an unfortunate effect of making his books all seem quite similar (especially in tone), but that doesn't mean that each one I've read is not a stunning piece of writing, and crime fiction, this one in particular. The Chatham School Affair is a mysterious, gloriously gothic novel, absolutely steeped in atmosphere. If one didn't know better you'd think it was set in the South! Cook moves his stories along brilliantly, with tiny little shifts, grafually piecing his enigmatic puzzles together, always holding back as much as he reveals, always with a final twist. In fact, the twist here is not quite as dramatic as in some of his other novels, but it's still shocking and has huge emotional power. It all whips together to make this novel a stunning story, a piercing tradgedy which may possibly move you to tears, when the implications, for everyone involved, become clear.
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on 9 September 2014
I love all of Thomas H Cook's novels - but this is the best! If you only read one - make it this one !
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on 10 October 2010
I may be unduly hard to please but this book left me, if not cold, then not much warmed up. Henry Griswald , now an old man, remembers and tells the story of an affair that shattered the peace and quiet of the little town he lived in as a boy when his headmaster of a father hired a beautiful young woman, Elizabeth Channing, to teach art at his school. The exotic orphaned creature will cast spells both around young Henry and another teacher, Leland Reed, who by rights should have known better as he was married and the father of a little girl. There is not much to interest here as this story of passion, infidelity and supposed murders has been done times and times again and most of the time with greater talent. We are even cheated of the murders as we are tantalized by a tale that never really materializes, in fact there were deaths yes, but no murders (as such). As for young Henry, the boy who feels stifled and yearns for escape, sees a lot but doesn't understand the whole picture... this same plotline of an adult character going back in time has been done so well by Mc Ewan in "Atonement" that it is somewhat painful to see a similar attempt fail so utterly miserably. I was never once convinced ! Too banal by far this story that depends too much on caricatures, the temptress, the wounded-in-the-war teacher, the good man, his inflexible and hard-hearted wife... There is even a convenient death in a prison at the end to bring pathos and probably a few tears to the reader's eye. Mine remained dry and yet it is generally very easy to make me cry.
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on 28 August 2016
great book! thomas h cook is an excellent writer.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 January 2008
Brilliant, again. Cook's formula and writing style admittedly have an unfortunate effect of making his books all seem quite similar (especially in tone), but that doesn't mean that each one I've read is not a stunning piece of writing, and crime fiction, this one in particular. The Chatham School Affair is a mysterious, gloriously gothic novel, absolutely steeped in atmosphere. If one didn't know better you'd think it was set in the South! Cook moves his stories along brilliantly, with tiny little shifts, grafually piecing his enigmatic puzzles together, always holding back as much as he reveals, always with a final twist. In fact, the twist here is not quite as dramatic as in some of his other novels, but it's still shocking and has huge emotional power. It all whips together to make this novel a stunning story, a piercing tradgedy which may possibly move you to tears, when the implications, for everyone involved, become clear.
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on 10 May 2015
Another wonderful book by Thomas Cook. Beautifully written and comparable to his other classics Sandrine and Red Leaves.
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