Secondly, all of the characters are undermotivated It is not credible that X would commit murder It is not credible that Y would commit suicide The narrator young boy does something that such a young man would never do, never I kind of liked Miss Channing, the art teacher put on trial what the charges are Cook coyly does not reveal until 3 4 of the way through , but she was pretty standard example of the sophisticated and cosmopolitan art teacher type The relationship between the headmaster and his wife was good Look, I m not saying I wasn t drawn in It s just that I feel cheated Here s how low Cook stoops there is actually one character who goes by two completely different names and whose identity Cook does not reveal until the last 5 pages This isn t a book it s an author playing games with the reader.
If you want something good in a prep school setting, re read A Separate Peace If you want something really good, with creepiness and a seductive professor and insight into evil, read The Secret History I will not be trying another book by hook or by Cook, and the Edgar imprimatur means nothing to me now.
The Chatham School Affairis an award winning novel, and my first book by Cook When Elizabeth Channing gets a job in Chatham, she has no idea how her life is about to change She has come to teach at at the Chatham High School She befriend the headmaster s son, Henry, who is also the narrator, looking back at events from a distance of some seventy years.
The book is touted as a mystery, but it really doesn t fit the genre It s of a tragic romance drama with some mystery thrown in The author also chose to tell the story in a long winded narrative that never comes to the point till the very end Of course, that s the only way this novel would have worked Otherwise, without all the plodding, it would just be a short story, and probably much better for that Though the story was interesting in itself, I found it very unconvincing Henry got so deeply involved in his teachers love life that he faced the consequences of their actions in some ways This seems very unlikely to me I remember my 16 year old self I couldn t have cared less about my teachers personal lives, and the same could be said of my friends.
It was quite lovely to read the book due to its slow pace and descriptiveness at the beginning But 3 4ths down the story, I began to get tired of the repetitiveness By the time the surprise twist came at the end, I had already figured it out long back.
I don t think I really enjoyed this book, but there s no denying it s well written However, Thomas Cook hasn t been added to my list of great mystery authors.
I read my first Thomas H Cook novel last year when I discovered, by accident, Breakheart Hill I really liked that book I liked The Chatham School Affair even.
I am not a mystery connoisseur by any stretch, although I admit that I ve read a fair amount of suspense thrillers in my day Cook belongs in another category altogether sort of in the same way that King belongs in his own special category and I mean that as a compliment because at the top of his game, there s no one better than King The Chatham School Affair is a richly realized mystery which unfolds as the book s narrator, an elderly lawyer named Henry Griswald, recalls the events which transpired the year he was 15 In 1926, Henry is a student at Chatham School where his father is the director He s an intelligent boy, given to daydreaming and reading rather than socializing with his peers The arrival of the new art teacher, the beautiful and well traveled Elizabeth Channing, upends Henry s world in ways impossible to relate without revealing important plot points Suffice it to say that this book is a wonderful examination of love found and lost, of regret and honour, of sacrifice It s also a great mystery with a kick ass ending The Chatham School Affair is not told at breakneck speed the reader is expected to spend a little time with the characters but it s worth it Cook s writing is often lyrical not all that common in crime fiction In fact, I have a hard time with that label Henry is a wonderful narrator, sympathetic even, but what I admired most of all about this book is how Cook walked that wonderful tightrope never vilifying any character, allowing each of them their motivations and mistakes, their dreams and, ultimately, their fates.
Two thumbs up.
On the cover, this is described as a novel of suspense I didn t know what that was before reading this and I am still not sure I do know what it means generally but if this is an example of it, give me Thomas Cook weaves together an incredible tale about a small town out on Cape Cod The book starts in the present many years after a horrendous incident and slowly returns to memories of the year of the incident Cook does a great job of dribbling out details here and there You are impelled on by these little revelations, you want to find out I can t recall reading a book in this style, and I have to say that I am not an easy person to please, but Cook really blew my socks off with this book It was very, very good.
One from the dark secret shrouded in the mists of time department As a reader, I like framing devices as much as anybody, but they need to have some kind of rules a modern story can t continually roam around in clouds of fear and suspicion like The Castle Of Otranto or The Mysteries Of Udolfo It can be done in our day, but just not as the barrage of verbiage it was in yesteryear The author takes his time and ours building the world of this novel, framed within multiple removes and perspectives We are basically two thirds into this when forward motion begins to overtake the restraints pulling it back into the past I understand, I think, that there is some attraction to the slowly developing narrative, the techniques that were so unnervingly effective way back closer to the time of the birth of the novel itself the plaintive diary entry, the oil painting in the main hall with secrets hiding in plain sight, the hidden clue in the locket or suicide note But Cook s story is so weighted with premonitions, visions and re imaginings, each crafted so as to dissolve back to the present day that it becomes a little ridiculousI came into her room with a reluctance and sense of intrusion that I still can t entirely explain, unless, from time to time, we are touched by the opposite of aftermath, feel not the swirling eddies of a retreating wave, but the dark pull of an approaching one.
Cook s prose is a pleasure, and flows nicely until you stop to question it The flash forwarding and revisiting are no doubt meant to instill a floating, dreamy storyline, but are very often just annoying Even dreamy needs some kind of pace, a pulse gently drifting timelessness becomes or less interminable Frames around frames are no justification for lukewarm momentum This novel nearly redeems itself in the very end, with a vexing Conradian ethical convolution, almost allowing the reader to get the sense that all the drifty dreamy was building to something the only way it knew how But a last stab, on the last page, at a Joycean elegiac paragraph ala The Dead to sum up blows the reconsideration.
This book won an Edgar What am I missing I have a vision of an author trying to make something out of nothing by adopting a creaky writing device of foreshadowing All it did for me was make me wish he would get on with the story, for goodness sake, so I could finally finish the foolish thing and start something interesting Maybe the Edgar committee was sorry for Mr Cook because he had come up short in previous years, and threw him this bone Or maybe the Edgar isn t that reliable as a quality measuring device Whatever the reason, this book is a real drag Skip it.
But perhaps that is what was needed to suggest the school year s time in which these events occurred And the changes in these characters And the slow and gradual switch of loyalty and emotional attachments too not just for the two protagonists in this love story But in the entire town feel for the eventual occurrences, as well.
I have read him before and will read others He has an excellent understanding of human persuasion and influence How it really works to color human morality and ethics without seeming to do so Yet he is also very dark.
This story would be excellent fodder for a discussion on moral relativism It s an excellent study of small town life in that era, as well I m going to read all of this writer s work if they aren t too morose he has perception in depth Especially upon the role of personal responsibility.
Henry Griswald narrates the events that make up The Chatham School Affair, beginning with the arrival of Miss Elizabeth Channing, hired as a favor to a family friend to be the new art teacher at the all boys school The way Henry s tale unfolds reminds me of Daphne Du Maurier s Rebecca or perhaps My Cousin Rachel.
Something horrible happened that intimately involved young Henry, Miss Channing and lead to her death and the closure of the school Over the course of the book through flashbacks, court transcripts and conversations with townsfolk who remember the events but wish they didn t, Cook builds a suspenseful story in a wonderfully gothic setting.
The first couple chapters are so densely packed with important information that I had to reread them a couple of times before I felt comfortable moving on to the rest of the novel Starting with chapter three, the novel picks up pace and I found myself making time to read the book to finish it as quickly as I could.
This book was recommended by the author of The House at Riverton The Riverton book is a much better read The Chatham School Affair is harder to read, with heavy foreshadowing where the The House at Riverton had a lighter touch and smoother narrative Interesting to read of events in our region, but might not have finished it if not stuck on a plane with only this to read