I picked this one up on my recent visit to a bookstore. I did not read the back of the book to see what it was about. Different Class is written by Joanne Harris, enough said. This might not sound strange under normal circumstances; we all have those special authors on auto-buy. What is strange is this: I read Chocolat a long, long time ago and I recently attempted to read Gospel of Loki. Loved the former and could not finish the latter and yet I picked this book up without hesitation.
I loved Different Class. It was engaging, suspenseful and at times, disturbing. I couldn’t put it down for long and always found myself longing to be home (during work hours) so I could finish it. At the core of the story are some very important social problems, bullying, child abuse, homosexuality being prime among them, and the devastating consequences of ignoring them.
As far as the pace of the book is concerned, it strolls along at a leisurely pace. Sometimes it even crawls. And yet you don’t realize it. The writing is so rich in detail and captures everything so well: the change in the atmosphere, literally and figuratively, past memories, buried secrets and age-old relationships. At certain points, the writing was incredibly lyrical and poetic. I never once thought that the book struggled with speed; it was re-telling the story in its own way and on its own terms. No matter how well crafted the story is, if it isn’t written in an equally engaging manner I find the book holds little appeal for me. With Joanne Harris however the opposite is true. I feel like she would make even the most mundane of things sound magical, mysterious and even comical, when you least expect it.
The cast of characters was splendid as well. It really drives home the point that you do not need hundreds and thousands of characters to spin a tale. A handful of characters with their own personal agendas and problems and they practically end up running the show. Of course I had my favorites. Mr. Straightley, with his latin phrases and stubbornness. Harry Clarke, with his big heart and courage. The old Headmaster (I don’t remember his name). Surprised? There isn’t a whole lot about him during the entire book: he is mostly described as being of the Old Stock, meaning he would defend any and every member of his staff against the world in every single situation. Oh he’d give them hell for it himself, later. But before the world, he was nothing but a stout supporter. How endearing is that.
The different perspectives that narrate the story, as they go back and forth in time, was a wonderful tool to keep the thrill going. It keeps you on your toes, constantly questioning the text, trying to second guess every word. Who exactly are Ziggy, Goldie, Poodle? Who is the infamous Mousey? Which one of them is Johnny Harrigton? Had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I’ll have you know that these kind of books are my personal favorites and I consider it as a battle of wits: me vs the writer.
The only thing I did not like was the cover. It was creepy and set the mood, no doubt, but I would have loved it more had it been more pretty. Something strangely beautiful and eerie at the same time.