Monday, March 24, 2008

Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris

It's a new school year at St Oswald's Grammar School for Boys, bringing with it the annual batch of new teachers, one of whom is a relentless psychopath intent on destroying this bastion of upperclass education. Roy Straitley - eccentric, intelligent, beloved Classics instructor - has been a fixture at St Oswald's for almost thirty years. Devoted to the school and to his boys, Straitley eventually is the only obstacle preventing the ultimate ruin of the school, staff and students. The story unfolds through three voices:
  • Straitley
  • the malicious, vengeful and cunning new arrival
  • Snyde, the child that the once was our villain
Gentlemen & Players underscores the class differences inherent in the British social system - differences that the young Snyde felt acutely and that produced the monster plotting the utter annihilation of St Oswald's and those who love it. Snyde's story is particularly riveting, and the mystery as to the identity of the grown-up evil-doer is maintained until the very end. Straitley's voice is truly a treat to read - he's a witty, stubborn old luddite with a soft heart. Harris' writing really brings him to life. I could hear his accent and inflections as I read the words on the page. Gentlemen is beautifully composed. Characterization is excellent, the plot is compelling and if you're not really, really attentive to detail, the end is quite surprising.

1 comment:

tinylittlelibrarian said...

I've only read her first couple of books (Chocolat and then, um, some other foodie one) but this sounds totally different from what I'd thought was her usual style. Interesting...