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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant story of love and obsession.
I confess to buying this book in the belief that it would be a sexy romp through 19th century gay Paris. It is so much more. Within the plot (an ambitious young man whose mysterious past has given him a craving to climb society's greasy pole)it is a compelling story of love and obsession. In the wealthy, aristocratic house where he works, Max, meets a forty-something year...
Published 15 months ago by Steve

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad
I took this on holiday and found it a reasonable read. It is a bit predictable and too full of anxt for my taste
Published 4 months ago by Paul


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant story of love and obsession., 21 May 2013
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This review is from: The Second Footman (Paperback)
I confess to buying this book in the belief that it would be a sexy romp through 19th century gay Paris. It is so much more. Within the plot (an ambitious young man whose mysterious past has given him a craving to climb society's greasy pole)it is a compelling story of love and obsession. In the wealthy, aristocratic house where he works, Max, meets a forty-something year old Count, Miremont, a man wrestling with his own sexual demons. Max does not set out to seduce Miremont but the relationship which develops between the two is chronicled in a way worthy of Proust. Both protagonists walk a tightrope of danger, each having everything to lose by an illicit affair. But Miremont also faces the tortures associated with total love for someone who is beneath his station in life and more than capable of destroying him emotionally as well as socially. The portrayal of this relationship, and the society in which it unfolds, is exquisitely done. The author is especially clever at conveying the overwhelming physical passion of the affair between the two men without ever going into any physical detail. Equally compelling is the evolution of Max's character. Who, at the end, has seduced who?
The best find in gay literature in quite some time.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intrigue and mystery in late nineteenth century France, 16 Mar 2013
This review is from: The Second Footman (Paperback)
The Second Footman by Jasper Barry, published by Matador in 2013 is a confident debut and will appeal to readers who enjoy complex and ambivalent characters and well researched period details. Set in the late nineteenth century it is a novel about ambition, identity and intellectual discovery. Its French setting is well described so it is a surprise to see that the exquisite young man on the front cover is holding a tureen decorated with the head of Lenin - coincidence or a nod to the revolutionary ambitions of the young hero?
Albert Fabien, the main alias of the youth also known as Jean and Max, is about twenty but has a past which encompasses a lost family, captivity, life in a monastery and a mysterious former companion he calls 'the Other'. Nightmares and introspection reveal Fabien's anxieties as he uses his good looks and sexual appeal to break free from his past by becoming a footman. As lover and assistant secretary he acquires a rich and entranced patron in the Marquis de Miremont. The suffocating grandeur of fashionable, aristocratic Paris in the late nineteenth century is described with relish, alongside the interlinked lives of the wealthy and those who serve them.
However, at the heart of the novel is the consuming ambition of Fabien as he plans some sleight of hand that will transform his life. He reminded this reader of the charming but devious Ripley created by Patricia Highsmith, though in The Second Footman the psychotic murderer that Ripley becomes has not yet emerged, but there is a definite sense that this is the first of several novels which can explore Fabien's career - whether as murderer, revolutionary or something yet to be created.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite Striking ...., 15 May 2013
By 
jaffareadstoo (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Second Footman (Paperback)
Set against the glamorous background of nineteenth century France, and with the capriciousness of the Parisian elite opened up to scrutiny, the story of The Second Footman flutters between the grand salons of the aristocracy, and the squalid intimacy of shared servant accommodation. Nineteen year old Max, is the second footman of Catherine, duchesse de Claireville whose predilection for handsome male servants is widely acknowledged. With no assets other than his charismatic personality, Max devises a plan to help him escape his life of servitude. When he encounters the naive and wealthy Armand de Miremont at the duchesse de Claireville's summer retreat, Max realises that he has a talent to seduce, and as the first quiver of desire strikes, Armand is powerless to resist.

Whilst The Second Footman it is a substantial read, the plot never falters or loses focus. The writing is good, and the overall professional quality of the story is reminiscent at times of classic nineteenth century literature. I found that I was beguiled by both Max and Armand; their story of burgeoning homosexuality, with the hint of dark secrets, is expertly controlled within the boundaries of nineteenth century class structure. There is no doubt that the beautiful youth on the cover of the book is quite striking; his enigmatic gaze and grave composure captures not just the beauty of the man, but also highlights the captivating pull of the narrative.

This story of classic ambition, combined with the hedonistic arrogance of youth, and the frailty of hidden desire is perfectly presented. I have no hesitation in recommending The Second Footman as a fascinating and captivating read.

Originally reviewed for the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever - looking forward to a sequel, 20 May 2013
This review is from: The Second Footman (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this. I liked especially the tiny details of different kinds of domestic life of the period. The author is obviously very knowledgeable about fashion, architecture and manners and customs but he wears his learning lightly and you never get an indigestible chunk of "research" on the page. I particularly loved the descriptions of Fabrice's rather showy outfits.

Max, the main character is something of a cypher, keeping his secrets and his plans to himself. I didn't find him engaging, but, oddly, still really enjoyed the story. There's a whole cast of other characters who are proper individuals not just plot devices. They are all credible character with their foibles and faults lovingly drawn.

I finished the novel about a week ago and have been thinking about it at odd times since - that's my definition of a good book. I hope there's a sequel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and absorbing, 28 May 2013
This review is from: The Second Footman (Paperback)
I loved this - I thought it sounded a bit challenging, but was carried away by the evocation of 19C French society, the unfolding relationship between Max and Monsieur and the mystery of Max's past. I hope that a sequel is published soon.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad, 21 April 2014
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This review is from: The Second Footman (Kindle Edition)
I took this on holiday and found it a reasonable read. It is a bit predictable and too full of anxt for my taste
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5.0 out of 5 stars Part 1 of a Trilogy, 16 April 2014
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This review is from: The Second Footman (Kindle Edition)
Although I have yet to finish it I must recommend The Second Footman, others have outlined the plot and period so I will just say you're gonna love it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best, 15 April 2014
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This review is from: The Second Footman (Kindle Edition)
This is the best book I have read in a long while. The plot is intriguing - who is Max, what are his origins and what are his intentions. The characterisation is on a par with all the complexities and doubts over actions and motives. It is also meaty. I ration myself to an hour a day and really do not want it to end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars French historic gay M/M novel, 6 April 2014
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This was a excellent book, superbly written a very good read. Characters and emotions within the book were very well described.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Story, well written., 15 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Second Footman (Kindle Edition)
A superb book that kept my interest right to the end. Characters are well described and the story excellently woven with detail. Highly recommended.
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The Second Footman
The Second Footman by Jasper Barry
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