The BHPL Friday Book Group will discuss Joanne Harris' Gentlemen and Players on July 10 at 10:30 AM. Harris, author of Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange, is of French and English background, but this title takes the reader into that most English of institutions, the all-boy prep school. The story is told by two narrators: the venerable Latin Master at St. Oswalds and another teacher who plans to undermine the school by planting rumors and traps to create mayhem and to ultimately destroy St. Oswalds.
The plot description from Amazon:
'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.'
Gentleman and Players has elements of the troubled friendship of Gene and Phineas portrayed in John Knowles' A Separate Peace, the creepy architecture of Hogwarts, the genial lovable gruffness of Mr. Chips and the plot twists of Patricia Highsmith's mystery The Talented Mr. Ripley. Similar to those prep school classics, but completely original, it is a seriously chilling portrayal of a psychopath balanced by the most rational and reasonable character of the Latin teacher and written in a wry, funny style that along with the very surprising plot turns kept this reader glued to the book over the July 4th weekend.
Highly recommended for mystery fans.
If you did not study Latin at your alma mater, it can be difficult to understand Magister Straitley, a man multarum literarum, who often gives verbum sapienti.
Joanne Harris website: for interviews with the author, book lists, FAQ's etc.