Friday, 4 May 2012

Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris

On reading Chocolat and The Lollipop Shoes a while ago (recommended by my sister, who is an committed lover of Joanne Harris's work) I realised that I, like so many others, was enthralled by her gift with words.
This book only seemed to make me want to read more. We picked this one up in a local charity shop.

This tells the story of St. Oswalds in two narratives. One from the schoolmasters, Roy Straitley, and the other from the viewpoint of a child who just wants to fit in somewhere. It also tells the story in two time zones, set fifteen years apart.
The story starts off simply. About a boy who trespasses onto St. Oswalds grounds, and finds that he fits there better than anywhere else he knows. He gets more and more daring, listening to lessons, stealing uniform and even roaming around the school halls.
Fifteen years in the future and Roy Straightley is still teaching. About to hit his century of servitude to the school, he is determined not to let the curious events unfolding ruin it. It starts with his register, and a pen, but soon grows to encompass the whole school. Someone is trying to bring St. Oswalds down.

This story deals with so many pertinent issues, like belonging, revenge, love, life issues, hitting teenagerdom, mental health, physical health, missing persons, power, crime, society, and sets it all around one place. This is the mark of a truly incredible writer.
Image from Wikipedia

Gentlemen and Players is darker than Chocolat and The Lollipop Shoes, so I wouldn't recommend it for younger readers. But for me it was perfect. Dark, with lightly sprinkled humour and nostalgia. I loved it.

It being a mystery book, I was unsure as to whether I would ruin it for myself. You see, usually I uncover mysteries in stories and films stupidly quickly. I always end up being at the end and thinking: 'yep, thought that was going to happen', or perhaps 'KNEW it'. But with this book, I am relieved to say, I absolutely didn't have a clue. I had an idea about who was behind everything, and I was wrong, so very wrong (although not the person who was implied). This is very unusual.
So thank you Joanne Harris for being completely unpredictable, for giving little twists and turns that I didn't expect in the slightest. :)
Just for this I would give it 5 stars.

The characters were well written and had depth. Although I would have liked to know a little more about some characters specifically, I felt that for this books purpose you knew just enough about the characters, along with the little details you don't usually get. I loved the idea that a mug can say a lot about a person.

Overall, I am going to give Gentlemen and Players 5 out of 5 stars. 
I was debating 4 stars, as it wasn't as action packed as other books that I enjoyed, but I don't think this book needs that. The suspense of the mystery is enough to keep it thrilling.

Gentlemen and Players Wikipedia Page.
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