2010 Crime

Blueeyedboy – Joanne Harris

I have been wanting to read a Joanne Harris book for a long time – I own almost all of them! For some inexplicable reason they never seem to make it to the top of the TBR pile. I then spotted that Blueeyedboy was going to be the first bookclub choice on The Wright Stuff (a morning UK magazine show) and so made the effort to read it in time for programme on Friday 14th May.

Blueeyedboy is written in the form of blog entries with each chapter ending in the comments the post received. The posts are written on a site called badboysrock which encourages people with murderous fantasies to engage with one another.

Initially I loved the descriptions of the little boy growing up; the insecurities he felt and the pressure of being the only one of his siblings to still be alive. Unfortunately, about 150 pages in, everything began to fall about. The book began to concentrate on his murderous fantasies and the line between what he’d made up and what had happened became increasingly blurred. I’m sure this was deliberate, but it confused me.

I think the message of the book was that we can’t trust what we read online, that we can all pretend to be whoever we want to be; but as a reader I’d have liked to know which bits were supposed to be true. The further into the book I got the more muddled everything became and the plot just seemed to disappear into increasingly dark areas. This confusion made it almost impossible for me to engage with the characters, most of whom I already disliked.

The comments at the end of each chapter ruined the flow of the book for me and I didn’t find them very realistic. I also found the big reveal at the end to be a disappointment.

It was an interesting premise, but I’m afraid it didn’t work for me.

Opinions seem to be very mixed….

I loved the whole unsettling process! Lovely Treez Reads

….it felt too chaotic… The Book Whisperer

…difficult to really care about what happens to any of the characters in the book Euro Crime

Joanne Harris is clearly a very skilled writer and I have heard wonderful things about her other books, so I plan to try another one soon.

Which Joanne Harris book should I try next?

I think the mixed opinions make this a fantastic book club choice. I am really looking forward to seeing the discussion on The Wright Stuff tomorrow morning.

Updated 14th May

I’ve just watched The Wright Stuff and was very impressed by the discussion of this book. It was quite sad that they didn’t manage to find someone who loved it as that would have added to the debate, but I admired their honesty, their professionalism and their ability to focus on the book. I thought it was a much better discussion than the TV Book Club and look forward to following the rest of the series.

Did you watch the show?

47 replies on “Blueeyedboy – Joanne Harris”

I haven’t heard of this book but do agree that on the top layer description, it sounds like a deep, but curious read (I’ve never seen a book that was made to look like a blog with comments – quite a unique concept).

Thanks for the review. I’ll keep my eyes out for it just to have a peek.

Mar, It is quite a deep book with lots of symbolism etc. I haven’t seen a book in the style of a blog either. I’m sure this won’t be the last, but I’m not convinced by it. Perhaps this is just the modern day version of the epistolary novel and I’m just not a fan of either?

Jackie, this is the book I was talking about on Saturday in London; It confused me too and I just “didn’t get it”.

As for her other books, I have loved them all (although not so much Coastliners). Five Quarters of the Orange is my favourite (in fact it is in my Top 10 ever); I found it one of those books where you are so involved with the characters that you don’t want to let them go when you’ve finished. Chocolat and Blackberry Wine are great too but Five Quarters gets my vote.

Unfortunatley I’m not working from home tomorrow so I won’t get to see The Wight Stuff but I will record it to see what they say (plus Matthew Wright is sort of a secret crush of mine ;))

The Book Whisperer, I remember you talking about it. At that stage I think I’d only read about 100 pages and was loving it, so didn’t want to comment – my opinions are now almost identical to yours!

I haven’t heard much about Five Quarters of an Orange before – it is another one I don’t own 🙁

I’ll be interested to see what you think of the Wright Stuff after you’ve watched it – I look forward to comparing notes.

I have read quite a few Joanne Harris books and I would probably recommend trying Gentleman and Players. It has a twist in it that really is an eye opener. I loved Coastliners too. The Evil Seed is a bit different from the rest of her books and has a vampire element.

Blueeyedboy sounds like a completely different style of book from anything she has written before. Not sure if I would like it.

Can you tell me when the Write Stuff is on tomorrow? I haven’t heard of it and would like to catch it.

viviene, The Wright Stuff is on Channel 5 tomorrow morning at 9.15am – 10.45am

It is beginning to sound as if all of her books are worth reading 🙂

I’m intrigued to read this – some of Ms Harris appeals to me (I quite enjoyed Chocolat) but the others don’t. So as Vivienne says this seems to be a bit different I’m keen to give it a go.

Hmmmm…I’m trying to figure out what I think about this one. There’s something about the premise that intrigues me but it sounds like the book didn’t deliver. I think I would like to read it if one of my friends did too so we could discuss it together. Sometimes books like these warrant discussion with another person to make them more palatable.

Kathleen, This is definitely a book that benefits from discussion. Unfortunately my real life friends don’t read, so I’ll have to rely on the TV programme tomorrow 🙂

This does sound like a really interesting premise. I love the idea of using blog posts and the fact that you can’t trust everything you read online. The comments too make it sound interesting, but I can see how it wouldn’t flow. It does sound hard to follow though by not knowing what is true or anything. So interesting, but not top of my ‘I want to buy it now’ list 😉

Amy, The comments didn’t seem very realistic and most of them were deleted so we could only see the poster, not their comment – it just got annoying after a while 🙁

I have read nearly all of Joanne Harris books, I have been thinking about reading this one, but I wasn’t sure about the book when I read a description online of Blueeyedboy, it seemed a different kind of book from what she has written in the past. I would be so dissapointed it wasn’t good.

Beth, From what I’ve read this book is very different from her others. Opinions do seem divided though – depends on what sort of book you like – I hope you’re not dissapointed by it.

I’ve read two Joanne Harris novels, and liked both to varying degrees. By far my favourite was Gentlemen & Players, which I read and reviewed last year. So much fun! Based on the description of this one, I don’t think I’ll be adding this one to the pile any time soon.

Steph, I think that Blueeyedboy is set in the same town as Gentlemen and Players so it would be interesting for me to read it while I still have this one clear in my mind – I’ll have to see if I get find a copy.

I’ve read three Joanne Harris books and they’ve all been so different, and this one sounds very different as well. I’ve read and liked both Blackberry Wine and Chocolat but my absolute favourite of hers is Gentlemen and Players. Great story and a great twist. Highly recommended!

I haven’t read any Harris but I’ve seen this being reviewed on a few blogs – actually this is the first review I’ve actually read but it’s very helpful to have other people’s reviews captured at the end of yours 🙂

I like the premise but I think the style it’s written in would annoy me too. I’m not a big fan of books written in the form of emails etc.

Am I one of the few that never read Joanne Harris? I’ve heard of Chocolat and Coastliners but not the others and they never really grab my attention. I’ll be interested to know your thoughts on her other books. This one sounds intriguing but I’m rarely in the mood to read about murderous fantasies.

It is interesting to read your review on this one Jackie – I have seen it around but have so far stayed away from it because it just sounds so different to all of Harris’s other books which I absolutely love. I admire her for stepping out of her routine and trying something different but I have to be be boring and say I like all of her other books and the way they are! I love Chocolat but also love Gentleman and Players which, now that I think abot it, it a little different for her too!

I’ve read Chocolat and The Lollipop Shoes, which I enjoyed and have Five Quarters of the Orange on my shelf (which I would have to re-read to refresh my memory – which might say more about my memory than anything else)!
She’s obviously a versatile writer as Blueeyedboy sounds so different in style.
P.S. I’m reading more of Salley Vickers at the moment and enjoying her style of story-telling etc.

Linda, The only Salley Vickers I’ve read is Mr Golightly’s Holiday and I’m afraid I didn’t make it to the end – I found it far too whimsical and his incompetence with computers just annoyed me. I’m not sure I fancy picking up another of her books, although maybe someone will convince me it is worth while 😉

I don’t have anything new to say — interesting concept and format. Sorry it didn’t work better for you. I barely have time to read my blogging friends’ blogs, not sure I’d want to read blog posts in a book.

Did the posts and comments have typos and spelling errors? That would be a realistic touch!

I’ve been ambivalent about reading this. On the one hand it’s a subject I’ve dealt with in my own writing so I’m intrigued to see how someone else goes about it. On the other hand, what I’ve read about the book makes it feel a little like a pastiche – a rather “by-numbers” exercise in unreliable narrators that’s half way between Midwitch Cuckoos and We Need to Talk About Kevin.
I’m also not 100% sure about trying another Joanne Harris after reading Gentlemen and Players which pulled the whole unreliable narrator trick in a very unconvincing and unsatisfactory way – it felt the whole time as though I was being told by the author “look at me, I’m clever, I’m going to pull off a trick, and show you just how clever”. The writing was, for want of a better word, smug. and that’s not a very attractive quality in a novel.

Dan, After reading books like Summertime and The Rehearsal this book doesn’t come across as someone trying to show how clever they can be. I thought it was an interesting idea, but I wouldn’t say it was smug – I guess you’ll just have to read it and see it for yourself 🙂

This is on my TBR pile, and sounds a real departure in style for her.

I’ve read several others of Joanne Harris’s books, and enjoyed all of them. The one I enjoyed most was Five Quarters of the Orange which is set during WWII in France.

Jackie, re. Salley Vickers I just finished Dancing Backwards (setting – a cruise ship bound for New York with flash backs – not surprising given the title) and read Miss Garnet’s Angel (Venice) a few weeks ago. I will give Mr.Golightly a miss I think! I don’t like whimsy myself, especially from the voice and actions of a male character and agree with your comment the character would annoy me too. I want to move on to something different so Hearts and Mind
is still on my radar!

I read Chocolat ages ago, but didn’t really enjoy it. Not read anything by her since, and for some weird reason, I don’t want to either. It’s not one of the “bad experience” things – I didn’t hate the book. It just left me feeling completely indifferent.

anothercookiecrumbles, I have heard wonderful things about Chocolat, so it is sad to learn that it left you feeling indifferent. I still plan to pick it up at some point – perhaps I’ll ensure I have the film ready to watch straight afterwards.

I second (or third or whatever) the Gentlemen and Players recommendation. The only two I’ve read of hers were Chocolat, which I didn’t care for, and Gentlemen and Players, which I enjoyed very much. I may try Blueeyedboy next if it’s set in the same town as GaP, because the premise does sound rather cool.

Jenny, The fact that it is based in the same town intrigues me, but it is one of the few I don’t own a copy of yet – I’m keeping my eyes peeled!

I was attracted to BlueEyedBoy by a radio feature in which the author spoke about her premise of sinister internet communication and a child with the unusual sensory condition of synaesthesia (where the subject experiences abstract thoughts like numbers as colours, smells etc.) but reading it was truly a chore. I’ve never read Joanne Harris before and associate her with upmarket romances like Chocolat (I saw the movie). This novel, however, is supposedly a thriller which reveals a narrative of murder via a blog/network site with two blogger-narrators, a man who tells us about his dysfunctional mother and older brothers and a woman who may be a tragic little girl from his past.
As often happens when authors imitate the media, the social networking scenario is unconvincing and it’s hard to see why the narrators couldn’t just ‘speak’ to the reader directly because the blog device causes plotting problems which have to be solved by implausible password-stealing. There’s also an irritating conceit of having an mp3 track title listed at the beginning of the main narrator’s chapters, supposedly what he’s listening to on his iPod: if you don’t know the song, it adds nothing (titles are generally free to quote but song lyrics are expensive under copyright) and whatever the publisher’s multi-platform hopes, I for one don’t want to pay for a list of mp3s to listen to whilst reading a novel.
These were minor problems, though, compared to what, for me, was novel’s main weakness: the characters were entirely unbelievable, a collection of verbal mannerisms, archetypes and mismatched cut-and-paste quirks impossible to invest in. The synaesthesia theme is a dead-end disappointment and there’s very little coherent rationale for what any of these characters do and say. The writing is relentlessly full of stilted monologues and nails-down-the-blackboard metaphors: an attempted reproduction of synaesthesia in some parts perhaps but I wondered if the author was also imitating amateur writing (the characters at some point belong to a type of writing therapy group, another theme not well explained) but since these are our only narrators, why punish us throughout? The characters became increasingly confused to me, not through sleight-of-hand misdirection but just dissolving into a soup of voices and when the ‘twists’ of personas came, I was long past caring. The ending is just risible and I think any evening class ‘creative writing’ teacher would kindly suggest altering it.
This is rather a harsh commentary I know but I suppose I expected better from such a well-established (and well-paid) author plus I bought the hardback (Oxfam’s gain).

Stella, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time and for the long, thoughtful comment. I can only agree with most of your sentiments.

I wasn’t that bothered about the track titles at the start of the chapter. I recognised most of the tracks, but I’m not a big music lover and so I generally ignored them. I’m sure it added something for a few readers and so I’m happy for them to be there.

I share your frustrations on the synaesthesia and the ending. It was all very disappointing. I have heard that Claire Morrall’s book: Astonishing Splashes of Colour gives a much better portrayal of someone with synaethesia – I plan to read it soon.

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