Monday 9 August 2021

A Narrow Door by Joanne Harris BLOG TOUR #ANarrowDoor @Joannechocolat @orionbooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #BookReview


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.

A Narrow Door by Joanne Harris was published on 4 August 2021 by Orion. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, as part of this Blog Tour, organised by Tracy from Compulsive Readers. 

It's over fifteen years since I read the first in the St Oswald's series; Gentlemen and Players and five years since I read the follow up; Different Class. Joanne Harris has long been one of my favourite authors, her ability to write in different genre and keep her readers entertained is amazing. I've been delighted to enter the world of St Owald's again, although it's a dark and twisted word with a lead character who is totally unforgettable. 

The 'narrow door' of the title refers to how difficult it usually is for a woman to enter and rise up in the world of academia. We meet Rebecca Buckfast, who readers of the previous books will remember as Becky Price. Rebecca is now the head of St Oswald's, and the school is no longer a 'grammar school for boys' but an academy. The biggest and probably most important of the changes that Rebecca has made. Girls now frequent these classrooms, taking lessons along with the boys, treated as equals. 

If Rebecca is the future of St Oswald's, then classics teacher, Roy Straitley is the past. Rebecca and Roy make up the core of this story, both taunted by episodes from their past, both tortured by memories of important people now missing from their lives. Rebecca can never let go of her brother Conrad who went missing when she was just a child, whilst Roy's memories are of his colleague Eric Scoones. Eric was his dear friend but revelations about him have tainted how he remembers their relationship. 

When Straitley is told that a body has been found in the school grounds, he is certain that Rebecca will deal with it. However, he is shocked by her apparent calmness and it is then that their stories begin to be told. 

Needless to say, as is to be expected from this author, the story that unfolds is beautifully and intelligently written. The battle between the then and the now, the fight against the patriarchy, the control and apparent ease within the writing is just outstanding. 

I thought about talking more about the actual story, but it's too complex and skilfully woven to describe without giving too much away. There is such cunning and sharpness here, it's a story that totally enfolds the reader and doesn't let go until the very final line. 

Another triumph from one of our finest authors. 

Joanne Harris is an Anglo-French writer, whose books include fourteen novels, two cookbooks and
many short stories. 
Her work is extremely diverse, covering aspects of magic realism, suspense, historical fiction, mythology and fantasy. 

In 2000, her 1999 novel CHOCOLAT was adapted to the screen, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. 
CHOCOLAT has sold over a million copies in the UK alone and was a global bestseller. 

She is an Honorary Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, and in 2013 was awarded an MBE by the Queen.

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