You don’t have to understand Latin to enjoy “Different Class”, but it would certainly help. This book, published by Joanne Harris in 2016, has two voices and two time peiods. One voice is that of a teacher at a venerable grammar school in Yorkshire who peppers his conversation, and even his thoughts, with quotes from ancient Romans. The second is one of the school’s boys. The story shifts back and forth between 1981, when the boy was in Straitley’s Latin class, and 2005, when the boy is back in town and Straitley is contemplating retirement.
This boy has done some terrible things, but which boy is he? He makes entries in a dairy without ever mentioning his name, and refers to his schoolmates by nicknames, confusing the issue of who’s who. I admit that this ploy confused me even more than Harris probably intended, which brings me to a suggestion I would like to make to writers: Be careful how confusing you make your plot, keeping in mind that the average reader doesn’t read your book in one go, but picks it up and puts it down, doing and thinking of other things between sessions. It’s hard enough to keep a large cast of characters straight under the best of circumstances.
The book is a mystery story, the mystery being, who is this evil boy? The most enjoyable aspect of it was the fond depiction of the old fashioned school and gradually recognizing the fine qualities of the old teacher. The suspense comes from wanting to see if and how the good guy wins and evil is finally punished.