Different Class

A Novel

Different Class

“It’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips meets The Bad Seed. Joanne Harris’s latest novel, Different Class, has a killer elevator pitch and, what’s more, it delivers on its intriguing premise….[A] rich, dramatic tale that builds to a surprising conclusion.” —The Washington Post

“Harris delivers mischief and murder to an English prep school in Different Class, a delightfully malicious view of privileged students with overly active imaginations.” —The New York Times Book Review

From the New York Times bestselling author of Chocolat comes a dark, psychological suspense tale in the tradition of Patricia Highsmith about a sociopathic young outcast at an antiquated prep school and the curmudgeonly Latin teacher who uncovers his dangerous secret.

After thirty years at St. Oswald’s Grammar in North Yorkshire, England, Latin master Roy Straitley has seen all kinds of boys come and go. Each class has its own clowns, rebels, and underdogs—all who hold a special place in the old teacher’s heart. But every so often there’s a boy who doesn’t quite fit the mold. A troublemaker. A boy with darkness inside.

With insolvency and academic failure looming, a new headmaster arrives at the venerable school, bringing with him new technology, sharp suits, and even girls to the dusty corridors. But while Straitley does his sardonic best to resist these steps toward the future, a shadow from his past begins to stir again. A boy who still haunts Straitley’s dreams twenty years later. A boy capable of terrible things.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 416 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501155536 | 
  • January 2017
List Price $11.99 (price may vary by retailer)

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Different Class includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Joanne Harris. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


From New York Times bestselling author Joanne Harris comes a dark and twisted tale of betrayal set at a prep school.

At St. Oswald’s, a venerable boys’ school in the north of England, another tumultuous year has come to a close. The staff and boys at the school are trying to recover from the latest scandal to rock the institution, but unfortunately more upheaval is on the way. A new headmaster arrives and ushers in a wind of unwelcome changes. While old-guard Latin master Roy Straitley struggles to survive in this new system of e-mails and PowerPoint, a former student reenters his life, and with him, a twenty-year-old tale of intrigue, corruption and murder. . . .

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. How does the tone of the prologue set the stage for the rest of the novel? Discuss the relevance of the title, Different Class. Consider what the author is trying to say about class as it relates to St. Oswald’s and society. Find examples in the novel of how class is applied see more

About the Author

Joanne Harris
Photograph © Kyte Photography

Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris (MBE) was born in Barnsley in 1964 to a French mother and an English father. She studied Modern and Mediaeval Languages at Cambridge and was a teacher for fifteen years, during which time she published three novels, including Chocolat. Her books are now published in over fifty countries and have won a number of British and international awards. She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and has been a judge for the Whitbread Prize, the Orange Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize, and the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science. She works from a shed in her garden and lives with her husband and daughter in a little wood in Yorkshire.