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Gentlemen and Players Paperback – 26 December 2006
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- Paperback : 422 pages
- ISBN-10 : 006088813X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0060559151
- Dimensions : 20.07 x 13.46 x 3.05 cm
- Publisher : William Morrow & Company; Reprint edition (26 December 2006)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 0060559152
- Customer Reviews:
"[Harris] turns to the literary thriller, with stunning results . . . This is one hypnotic page-turner."--Booklist (starred review)
"[An] enjoyable mystery romp."--Sunday Times (London)
"Irresistible . . . Constantly surprising and wickedly fun."--Washington Post Book World
"One of those rare books that grips and holds you . . . [B]oth socially important and vastly entertaining."--Chicago Tribune
"Best of all is a dazzling climactic twist . . . . its last move is a winner."--New York Times Book Review
"[A] clever story of obsession and revenge . . . .[Harris] has scored another success."--Daily Telegraph (London)
"[A] gripping psychological thriller. . . . [Harris] cleverly keeps the reader guessing till the very last chapter.--Express
"[A] masterful literary thriller."--Fort Myers (Fla.) News-Press
"[A] tense, perspective-shifting narrative ... [A] page-turning climax that ... avoids the easy out of a tidy ending."--Tampa Tribune
From the Inside Flap
For generations, privileged young men have attended St. Oswald's Grammar School for Boys, groomed for success by the likes of Roy Straitley, the eccentric Classics teacher who has been a fixture there for more than thirty years. This year, however, the wind of unwelcome change is blowing, and Straitley is finally, reluctantly, contemplating retirement. As the new term gets under way, a number of incidents befall students and faculty alike, beginning as small annoyances but soon escalating in both number and consequence. St. Oswald's is unraveling, and only Straitley stands in the way of its ruin. But he faces a formidable opponent with a bitter grudge and a master strategy that has been meticulously planned to the final, deadly move.--Daily Telegraph (London)
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The second point of view is somewhat less obvious as, unless you guessed early on in the book, their identity is not revealed until much later in what I felt was one of the biggest twists I’ve come across in a long time (but more about that later). The mystery character is plotting revenge against St Oswald’s and all it stands for; the elite and superior within society. As we come to discover, the protagonist’s desire to take down the school and everyone in it is driven by their experience and bitterness that comes from being outside of its walls.
As the intricate story of cat vs mouse progresses it becomes increasingly dark and gripping. I personally did not guess the identity of the main character so this was a twist that really made the book in my opinion. Once I knew however, I came to realise just how cleverly written this novel was. The way the author writes makes it easy to picture the long corridors, multiple classrooms and manicured lawns to the extent that you feel like you are there.
This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and I have to say I wouldn’t have actually chosen to do so (thanks Book Club!). It kept me on the edge of my seat and I was thinking about it long after I turned the last page.
The book pits two narrators against each other - under the slightly clunky guise of a chess match. A Knight and a Bishop put in appearances but feel rather as if they've been shoe-horned in for effect and to try to carry a theme that doesn't deliver well. The two narrators are distinguished (for me not very well) by their chapters starting with line drawings of chess pieces. On a Kindle, it's not immediately easy to understand the significance.
The book also suffers from insufficient differences in the voices of the two protagonists but I say that about most multi-narrator books that I've read recently. And to make it more complicated, one narrator jumps back and forth between past and present.
BUT.....despite the complexity, there's an interesting story in Gentlemen & Players.
An elderly teacher, a man wedded to his school and with 33 years of teaching Latin under his belt, is struggling to deal with the bureaucracy of the school.
A young teacher with a fake CV and a grudge that needs to be settled, is trying to destroy the reputation of the school and will stop at literally nothing to bring it down. That same teacher tells of of their childhood friendship with a boy called Leon; a friendship that lies at the root of the long-held grievance against the school.
Can the old teacher work out what's going on as his school falls apart around him? Can the young one carry out their evil plot to one by one pick off the teachers who gave Leon a hard time?
I found this a bit plodding at first but once I'd got my head around what was going on, I flew through the rest of it. The big 'twist' and the shocking reveal come at 85% into the book, just as you think you've got it all worked out. As twists go, it's on a par with the big 'reveal' at the end of Londonstani - which made me laugh so hard I nearly dropped my book in the bath. This one is a bit far-fetched but it does make us realise how clever the author has been. However, once certain things that happened between the protagonist and young Leon are clarified, the whole reason for wanting to destroy the school seems to fall apart and I was left wondering why they'd gone to so much trouble.
I already bought another book that's a sequel to this and look forward to reading that.
But more importantly, this is an erudite and very suspenseful psychological thriller that (in my opinion) beats the socks off of the current crop of 'twisty' bestsellers. Harris makes the reader care about her characters -- even the supposed 'bad guys' -- and every single one is complex, three-dimensional and convincingly human. I am looking forward to meeting some of them again in the sequel (and third of her 'Malbry' novels), Different Class.
An extraordinarily enjoyable book, and one I can recommend without reservation.