Audere, agere, auferre.
To dare, to strive, to conquer.
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. But this year the wind of unwelcome change is blowing. Suits, paperwork, and information technology are beginning to overshadow St. Oswald's tradition, and Straitley is finally, and reluctantly, contemplating retirement. He is joined this term by five new faculty members, including one who -- unbeknownst to Straitley and everyone else -- holds intimate and dangerous knowledge of St. Oswald's ways and secrets. Harboring dark ties to the school's past, this young teacher has arrived with one terrible goal: to destroy St. Oswald's.
As the new term gets under way, a number of incidents befall students and faculty alike. Beginning as small annoyances -- a lost pen, a misplaced coffee mug -- they are initially overlooked. But as the incidents escalate in both number and consequence, it soon becomes apparent that a darker undercurrent is stirring within the school. With St. Oswald's unraveling, only Straitley stands in the way of its ruin. The veteran teacher faces a formidable opponent, however -- a master player with a bitter grudge and a strategy that has been meticulously planned to the final move, a secret game with very real, very deadly consequences.
A harrowing tale of cat and mouse, this riveting, hypnotically atmospheric novel showcases New York Times bestselling author Joanne Harris's astonishing storytelling talent as never before.
At its heart, with its finite cast of characters from which we know the villain and the victims must come, Gentlemen and Players is a classic "country house" whodunit . However, it is also a deliciously complicated literary thriller set in two time periods with three narrative perspectives, which also serves as a fine cautionary tale. Harris, who hates to be typecast, has done it again - she's taken the risk of changing genres and carried it off in style! (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
This is verbal magic of the highest order, the kind every author deserves but doesn't always get.
Booklist - Joanne Wilkinson
Harris combines the conventions of the academic novel - its vicious politicking and rich dynamics - with the taut suspense of a thriller
The Washington Post
Beyond the book's considerable entertainment value, Harris has written an unsettling reminder of how much our orderly lives depend on a fragile level of trust.
With Gentlemen & Players Harris has tapped an unsuspected talent for writing sophisticated, absorbing suspense.
Intelligent, compelling, technically well crafted, and entertaining, it is highly recommended.
The Guardian (UK) - Harry Ritchie
As with Heller's novel (Notes on a Scandal), the daft errors and silly names in Gentlemen & Players serve only to highlight a basic unbelievability. Would a child really go to the lengths of impersonation required by this plot? Would that child really grow up to execute such gory revenge? Well, no, but then there wouldn't be a story, would there? It's a measure of the plot's cleverness and the skill and care that's gone into its construction that its highly dubious premise doesn't seem to matter nearly as much as it should. Book groups of the world, watch out.
The Independent (UK) - Christian House
Harris knows her subject and the novel fits into its genre exceedingly well. Roy is a contemporary take on the redundant Classics tutor from Terrence Rattigan's The Browning Version and all the class-bound malice has the flavour of Stephen Fry's prep-based fiction. But ultimately, Harris has taken what Benjamin Disraeli termed "the microcosm of a public school" and slotted her own romantic teachings into the curriculum to produce a wildly entertaining lesson on the twin perils of envy and elitism.
The London Times - Penelope Lively
The prime requirement of what the Americans call "mystery writing" is that it should be convincingly embedded; Gentlemen & Players comes rooted in a persuasive world of recalcitrant boys, warring teachers, Latin tags and health and safety requirements. If its author did indeed once do a stint in front of the blackboard, it has stood her in good stead — or enabled her to take a subtle revenge.
The English School System Established in medieval times, the original purpose of grammar schools was
to educate select members of the young in the grammar of Latin and other useful
In 1944 England established a tripartite education system
which placed grammar schools at the top of the heap. Less gifted children
(as defined by those who failed an entrance exam at the age of eleven) attended
either secondary modern schools or technical schools. In the 1960s the Labour government tried to do away with the grammar school system by introducing
comprehensive schools which taught all ability levels.
In response, some
grammar schools moved to a fee paying system but retained their "grammar school" designation,
and some managed to fly under the radar long enough to escape the Labour
axe and survived into the Conservative Maggie Thatcher years; thus, in a few English counties, grammar schools still exist as an option within the state education system.
others (including Leeds Grammar School and the fictional St Oswald's)...
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