by Julie HaleJanuary, 2007
Gentlemen and Players
The latest novel from the best-selling author of Chocolat is a cleverly plotted thriller set at an upper-class boarding school for boys in England. The school is called St. Oswald's, and its pupils are a typical lot aristocratic lads with a few oddballs mixed in for good measure, among them, a young student named Snyde, whose father is the school porter. Snyde makes it into the school under false pretenses by using a fake name (Julian Pinchbeck) and fabricating an identity for himself. He develops a crush on a wealthy student named Leon Mitchell, but their friendship has tragic repercussions, and as a result, Snyde's father is dismissed from his position. Fifteen years later, Snyde returns to the school as a teacher, seeking revenge on the institution. While Snyde himself tells a good bit of the story, he shares narrating duties with Roy Straitley, a classics professor who has been on the staff of St. Oswald's for three decades. Straitley's insights into the school's history and his reactions to newfangled modes of education (computers, for instance) stand in fascinating contrast to Snyde's account. In the end, it's Straitley who goes head to head with Snyde in an attempt to save St. Oswald's. Intelligent and elegant, gripping and suspenseful, Harris' book is a delightful literary mystery. A reading group guide is available online at www.harperperennial.com.