93 of 97 people found the following review helpful
Back to her best,
This review is from: Gentlemen & Players (Hardcover)
I must admit to being a little disillusioned by Joanne Harris' past few offerings. Holy Fools, Jigs and Reels and Sleep Pale Sister have failed to grab me in the way her food trilogy and Coastliners did. It was therefore with some trepidation that I began her new novel, "Gentlemen and players" I confess to having a preconception that like many of her other books this was likely to be a good read and enjoyable enough, but not likely to blow my socks off as Chocolat, Blackberry wine, Coastliners and the superb Five Quarters have. So I settled down to read this latest offering and I was hooked.
The story is a basic one. A nameless narrator starts off the book with their father living in the porters cabin at an esxclusive grammar school, "St Oswalds". After this first chapter however we learn that a decade and a half has passed since the opening chapter and our narrator has secured a job at St Oswalds and intends to destroy it. This story is intertwined with than of eccentric latin master Roy Straightley who is slowly being undermined and encouraged into retirement. Asd the story progresses scandals start to hit St Oswalds by way of a mysterious figure known simply as Mole (Our nameless narrator). As the scandals increase and even murder strikes St Oswalds the ancient school begins to crumble. This is when Straightley finally realises who Mole is, but can he stop another murder?
This is without doubt the best techincally written book Joanne has produced. She builds up through her dual narrative a crescendo of feeling and emotion. One cannot help to feel intreagued as to what will happen to St Oswalds will it fall and be lost forever or can Straightley avert the disaster. The ending is sublime and wil leave you physically breathless as the exciting denouement closes in. The idea of heading the separate sections of the book as the names of chess pieces and terminology is yet another master stroke, my only regret was the the final book was "Mate" rather than "Stalemate" which I would have preferred, but that is a minor point.
All in all this is a display of brilliance from one of the finest authors working today she is undoubtedly back to her very best form, this novel will rank alongside Blackberry Wine, Chocolat and Coastliners in the second tier of Joanne's work. A very good book, but nowhere near the masterpiece of "Five Quarters".