I am in love with Joanne Harris. There are no two ways about it. This woman has the ability, uncanny though it is, to make solid the intangible, to find prose in the most inexplicable of emotions, tastes, sounds…She is also a Northerner, like myself, in fact from the same city, schooled and living only minutes from myself.
I mention this only as background to the review – as I am, I'm afraid, what one would call 'terribly bias' towards this particular author.
Gentlemen and Players is principally a story of two characters: an old-school master of St Oswalds, a boys only private school, and a second unnamed narrator, a former pupil of the local comprehensive Sunnybank and life-long St Oswalds obsessor. What unfolds is, in true Harris style, a richly dark tale of obsession and deceit. Featuring her signature plot points: the single parent, tragic unrequited love, and a narrative that shifts constantly between the present and the past. Thus showing how, in the minds of both protagonists, time is a mere illusion and some events though long past remain with us indefinably.
This is a fabulous book: intricately woven and superbly paced. Her prose is as glorious as ever. Of particular appeal to me in this book were her methods of describing the pin-sharp agony of teenage love and how it lends a sharper colour to everything in the world around. Her ability to drip feed information so as to leave the reader constantly curious and wanting more is also to be commended.
I found the plot a little stretched at points and one of the central characters, the evil ex Sunnybanker bent on revenge, never quite sat with me somehow though the back story she provides is meticulous in every way. Her final twist, clever though it is, was obvious to me from very early on in the book, though admittedly some of the finer details did come as a surprise. Also one can not help but lament the omission of any French or food related motifs as Harris has become so synonymous with them it somehow seems if the book is missing a bit of her magic without them.
Nonetheless an excellent read, gripping from start to finish. Perfect for the bus journey to campus. Yet nowhere near the genius of Chocolat and the equally sublime Five Quarters of the Orange.