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.
Time to admit I haven’t read the other two St Oswald novels that make up the trilogy. Did it matter? Absolutely not, it never stopped my enjoyment nor did I feel I had missed anything that would have added more to the story.
And what of the story? Hugely interesting and intensely fascinating as new head of St Oswald’s, Becky threw open the doors to girls, merged with rival St Henry’s but most importantly carried the weight of the past on her shoulders.
An then a dead body, the catalyst to recriminations, to the past, but who did it belong to. Only one person knew, and were they going to reveal all or would it cost them and the school too much?
Harris brilliantly used Becky’s interactions with old classics master Roy Straitley, the traditional and the modern, locked in a battle of wills to solve a puzzle, to unravel the truth.
Becky was wonderfully complex, tough, determined that at first Harris made me hesitant, did I like her or not? Probably not to start with and then as we went back in time the real woman opened up, one blighted by the disappearance of her brother, her parents utter devotion to him and almost ignorance of her and her own troubles. It was where the psychology of trauma, of loss, of the minds ability to shut off what we cannot face came to the fore, as Harris played with Becky’s mind, her memory. I found it totally compelling and I started to feel empathy but there was always an undercurrent of something off kilter, of a woman who could or would not give into emotion, as if it were a weakness or perhaps if she did her whole world would fall apart. There was a harshness, an urge to emerge triumphant whatever the cost.
Harris made you think that bit more deeply, to question the male, female divide, the control we could have over others and indeed ourselves. Becky’s slow unlocking of her memory came with ghostly sighting, creaking of water pipes, of monsters that mired her childhood. It was a story of perception of a parents willingness to only see the good never the bullying, the damage being wrecked on another.
It was the story of a woman who, in her eyes triumphed not only over others but also herself and I had a grudging admiration for her even if she did have murderous intent.
I also admired Harris who ditched the lovely chocolate sweetness of her previous novels and plunged you into the disturbing psychological minds of her characters to create a truly immersive, intelligent and amazingly good read.
I would like to thank Orion for a copy of A Narrow Door to read and review and to Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
JOANNE HARRIS is an Anglo-French author, 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. She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and in 2013 was awarded an MBE by the Queen.