Recent Read: Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris

Monday, January 12, 2009

This book, Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris, was the most recent selection for my online book club. We were supposed to read it by 12/31, but with the holidays and everything going on, I hadn't had a chance. Not only that, but I wasn't terribly motivated to do so. Some of my fellow book clubbers had indicated they didn't particularly enjoy it, so I was, in a lot of ways, not looking forward to reading it.

On Saturday, I finally picked it up and dove into it. And well, now it's Monday, and I'm already blogging about it. That must say something good about it, right? It's been a long time since I've finished a book so quickly, unless I'm traveling. 400+ pages, but once I started, I flew right through it.

Here's one thing I'll tell you right away that took me like 50 pages to figure out: The story is told in first person, but from two different perspectives--two different people. I was completely confused at first, thinking it was the same person, but it eventually became clear, and the story started to make much more sense once I understood.

One of our narrators is Roy Straitley, a teacher for 33 years at St. Oswald's Grammar School for Boys, a traditional private school in England. The other is Snyde, who we come to learn grew up in the same town, always resented St. Oswald's and its students, and now, as an adult, seeks revenge against the School.

Through Straitley, we learn about the inner dynamics at the School, about the tradition of it, and the people there. Through Snyde, we are given pieces of the story that Straitley is not privy to. Snyde also jumps back and forth between growing up at St. Oswald's (1989) and present day (15 years later), which gives us even more insight into what is happening.

The story takes us through one term at the School. A term that starts off normally enough, but quickly starts to unravel, thanks to Snyde's gradual execution of a sinister plan. Small things happen, then bigger things, and soon enough, the whole house of cards comes crashing down.

I don't want to say much else because it is, after all, a mystery; I don't want to ruin anything. But I will say that I figured out the mystery pretty early on in the book. While some other readers were put off by this (annoyed at having to read the rest of it after figuring it out), I found that knowing the ending actually led me to want to get there more quickly. I was anxious to find out how all of the pieces would fit together, and see how it would all play out. And generally, I was pleased with it.

I do wish I wouldn't have known as early as I did... it's fun when an author can actually dupe you until the end. But don't worry, it's not that obvious. There were several club members who read much further before figuring it out, or had it only half figured out, etc... so who knows? Maybe you'll read it and enjoy the "not-knowing" a bit longer. Anyway, I've said enough about that.

Overall, another good read. I rate it 4 stars out of 5.

As always, the comments are fair game to discuss anything about the book (even spoilers!). So if you haven't read and want to, you have been warned. :) If you've read the book, I'd love to hear what you think of it.


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