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Malbry #1

Gentlemen and Players

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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.

422 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2005

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About the author

Joanne Harris

93 books5,664 followers
Joanne Harris is also known as Joanne M. Harris

Joanne Harris is an Anglo-French author, whose books include fourteen novels, two cookbooks and many short stories. Her work is extremely diverse, covering aspects of magic realism, suspense, historical fiction, mythology and fantasy. She has also written a DR WHO novella for the BBC, has scripted guest episodes for the game ZOMBIES, RUN!, and is currently engaged in a number of musical theatre projects as well as developing an original drama for television.
In 2000, her 1999 novel CHOCOLAT was adapted to the screen, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and in 2022 was awarded an OBE by the Queen.
Her hobbies are listed in Who's Who as 'mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion'. She also spends too much time on Twitter; plays flute and bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16; and works from a shed in her garden at her home in Yorkshire.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,923 reviews
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,295 reviews120k followers
February 25, 2021
Joanne Harris - image from BBC

St. Oswalds Grammar School for Boys is an exclusive British institution, a bastion of tradition and privilege. Roy Straitley is an aging Classics teacher about to reach his 100th term at the school. The sameness and relative serenity of St Oswalds is about to be shattered. A new teacher is up to no good, determined to wreak havoc, perhaps even destroy the school and all those in it. Ultimately, this will become a battle between the honorable Straitley and the wretch bent on revenge and destruction. This is a very engaging read, told alternately from the perspectives of Straitley and his nemesis. It takes place in two times as well, the present, in which small things disappear, evidence appears to incriminate people who are accused of crimes they did not commit. Pawns are used and sacrificed in the deadly game. We are also shown the roots of this evil, fifteen years prior, in which the young person comes to despise the school and its inhabitants. A game of chess, both then and now. Fun, fast reading, thrilling and with an excellent final-chapter twist. Heartily recommended.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,222 reviews2,052 followers
April 27, 2015
This book is an absolute delight from start to finish. Joanne Harris has always been a favourite of mine and she certainly did not let me down with this one! Mr Straitly is such a well drawn character I found myself cheering for him the whole time and I was desperate for him to succeed in the end. The last paragraphs of the book brought tears to my eyes. There is a very big mystery angle to this story and although I was able to guess the identity of the murderer fairly early on it was only because having read this author before I was aware of her devious mind and looked outside the square! It was very cleverly written and very entertaining. So so good - easily five stars.
Profile Image for B the BookAddict.
300 reviews654 followers
December 27, 2016

Joanne Harris is best known for her award winning novel Chocolat that lead to the highly successful film of the same name and two more novels featuring the main characters. Her other novels include Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, The Lollipop Shoes and Peaches for Father Francis. Born in her grandparent’s sweet shop, her family has a tradition of storytelling, folklore, cookery and strong women. It is no surprise then that many of her books feature food, sweets and strong women following their own path. But in Gentlemen and Players, Harris changes tack completely. She has taught modern languages at a boys independent grammar school for fifteen years and from this experience, she has gleaned inspiration.

Art does often imitate life so it should come as no surprise then that Harris has set her 2005 novel Gentlemen and Players in the rarefied air of a private grammar school for boys, St Oswalds. The novel is a psychological thriller, which sharply features deceits, flawed childhood, hidden identity, class distinction and revenge; the story ends with a deliciously unexpected twist at the end. There are two narrators; Roy Straitley, the Classics Master, on the eve of his century (100th) term who is affectionately referred to, by his students, as Quasi or Quasimodo as he is a trifle hunched and whose rooms are in the Bell Tower. Straitley is a Luddite; ignoring all requests to attend to his email, he swears in Latin and smokes (banned by the school) secret Gauloises in his office. The other narrator is the unnamed perpetrator who is bent on revenge for a myriad of both real and imagined slights against St Oswalds; a sociopath who is filled with hatred and bitterness. This perpetrator knows no rules he will not break; somehow he has infiltrated the teachers ranks, become on of them; a serpent set loose in the garden. One by one, insurrection among the boys, then scandals involving the staff begin to erupt, bringing chaos to the Michaelmas term.

A white King marks the first narrator, Straitley, at the beginning of alternate chapters. The second narrator is marked by a Black Pawn, and is the voice of the unknown enemy within St Oswald's.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past fifteen years, it’s this: murder is really no big deal.”

Such a tantalising first sentence in a novel! Harris did not disappoint in the rest of the story. It is gripping, clever and well paced; the plot is tightly controlled with impressive ingenuity. A tale for every reader: Most Highly Recommended. 4.5★
Profile Image for Vonia.
611 reviews97 followers
March 2, 2022
This is definitely the best book I have read so far this year. Why? Let me count the ways. Where to begin? (The only real complaint I have is that the synopsis and teasers given tell a story nothing like what readers have. At least, it reveals only a sliver, and not even a very significant one- comparatively minor enough that it changes the overall perception.)

1. As always, Joanne Harris is an expert at characterization. This is my 4th book by her I read and even if I did not like the book too much overall, her characters have consistently been relatable to the point that I was able to see them in front of me, the two-dimensional dimensional characters becoming three-dimensional. In this book, it is John Snyde, a psychopathic man, and Roy Straightly, a dedicated and loyal Classics teacher for thirty plus years. Entering the minds of these vastly different men is nothing short of fascinating.

2. The book is set up in a chess game format. Book parts, rather than numerical, are labeled: Pawn, King, Knight, En Passant, Check, Bishop, Queen, and Mate. Readers should be told that the two points of view are differentiated by the color of the cheers piece. As for myself, without this information, I failed to notice this and was slightly confused throughout until the very last chapter, although it became pretty clear after several sentences.

3. A psychological thriller. The thrill of the chase. A mystery. A suspenseful battle. A masterfully written all night page turner.

4. Themes I appreciate: the shame of the LGBT community, the difficulties inherent in teaching, friendships, parenting, abnormal psychology, loyalty, and institutions and traditions ineradicable and with a character of its own.

5. Sentimental and touching at the same time as appalling and frustrating. The ending is similar to that in Robin William's "Dead Poet's Society" (May he Rest In Peace) and quite heart warming.

Well, unlike many mysteries and psychological thriller I have read, the eventual reveal was actually unexpected and not, like most, anticlimactic.

**** Spoilers ****

John Snyde is a man (and woman, as the reader find out as the story continues. He dresses up, first as a teenager posing as his "mother" Julia Snyde, then more than a decade later as a professor by the name of Diane Dare) that is driven to madness, by both his feelings of inferiority, his need for revenge, and the death of the only guy he ever really loved. As a child, because of his place on the lower end of the socioeconomic tier of life, he is excluded from the exclusive, sometimes pretentious St. Oswald's Grammar School for Boys. Because of his obsession with what he feels ruined his life, his new obsession is seeking revenge. His definition of this revenge is master planned, with a series of events and planned schemes, from spreading rumors that cause the staff to hate each other, claims of sexual abuse that tears then apart, encouragement to specifically targeted boys to rebel, missing items resulting in planted evidence, etcetera.

His most intelligent rival can be found in Roy Straightly, whom is the one to eventually figure out his true identity and in clued in enough to unveil the truth, his true motive: he was the one (with an intense jealously of his girlfriend), many years ago, to push his (unrequited) love from the roof to his death.

A satisfying conclusion, although not "ideal". And this is something I also really appreciate. Almost always, happy endings are, well, exactly that. Frustratingly so. I prefer realism over fairytale endings. Here, the bad guy is not caught, having recalled to another country. Sad, but a likely occurrence. To some comfort, in his own way, Snyde's pain has caused him to pay for many years. Although many characters are murdered, St. Oswald's endures, as do most of the more likeable characters.

Joanne Harris, I liked you before, but now I love you!
Profile Image for Tooter.
415 reviews168 followers
February 14, 2017
Another wonderful read by Joanne Harris. I wish I had read this one before the sequel (A Different Class published 11 years later) but nothing was spoiled by reading in reverse order. I'm looking forward to a third (or fourth...) in the series but, hopefully, sooner than 11 years! Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Shirin T. .
403 reviews40 followers
May 13, 2022
"Murder is really no big deal. It's just a boundary, meaningless and arbitrary as all others - a line drawn in the dirt.
What would happen if I crossed that line?
Another line, daring me to cross it. Like murder!"


Imagine these clauses in the first chapter, at St Oswald's Grammar School for Boys with a very cool teacher, Roy Straitley who hardy resists retirement, double up your imagination because you can never guess what's going on, and this is Gentlemen and Players!
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,644 reviews5,102 followers
May 21, 2022
The writing in Gentleman and Players is excellent. Harris is able to evoke a real sense of place and conveys a perfect understanding of when to show and not tell, and how to fully immerse her readers in this rarified setting. Her exploration of identity is remarkably nuanced. Age, gender, class, work ethic, personal value system... all are at play in this novel. The prose on a technical level is without fault; the tone shifts effortlessly from playful to foreboding and then back again. The mystery itself is very absorbing - despite the richness of the writing, the novel is a page-turner. The author's greatest triumph is the characterization of the book's protagonist, Roy Straitley: a curmudgeonly dragon with staunch liberal values and a core of decency. Such an enjoyable person to spend time with, one full of endearing virtues and relatable flaws. I want to read more of this series because I'd like to experience more of what this author can do, but especially because I want to spend more time with Classics Master Straitley.

All that said, this excellent book is 3.5 stars rounded down because, as enjoyable as the villain of the piece may be, I thought Harris' love for her canny killer got in her way of actually recognizing that this person is a horrific scumbag utterly devoid of redeeming features. Talent at deception and murder are not redeeming features! A tough childhood is context, not a redeeming feature! It's one thing to understand that a villain has many sides, and that many villains do not see their actions as villainous, and to recognize that people love reading (and writing) about manipulative monsters who are smarter than the fools around them. But it's another thing altogether to become so fully enamored with your vicious villain that you begin to view them as some sort of courageous hero worthy of an unironically happy ending. By the end of the book, it felt like the scumbag villain had not only fooled and outsmarted everyone in the cast, but had also successfully charmed and hoodwinked the author herself.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,737 reviews1,469 followers
August 16, 2021
Make no mistake, Gentlemen & Players is a mystery novel. Unraveling what is going on kept my attention all the way through. You are in for surprises! This I guarantee.

There is a second reason to pick up this book. The story is set in an English grammar school for boys—St. Oswald’s. It has old fashioned turrets and towers. Classics, Latin, spoken languages and history lessons still hold sway, but alongside these, courses typical of contemporary times have been added. Computer sciences have pushed their way into the curriculum. The bonds existing between teachers and pupils take center stage. This aspect of the novel I really loved. The book will appeal to those who admire teachers dedicated to their job and their students. Along this vein, I will simply say that the end left me smiling.

The story is, on the other hand, no cute, sweet tale. There are deaths and murder to contend with, and revenge. I like that one is pushed to analyze why a person acts as one does. I am being careful to not give away hints. Being surprised is fun. The composition of the story is well thought out. The book is a puzzle where all the pieces fit. On closing the book, you think, “Wow, the author has tied together all the loose threads and kept the reader guessing all the way through!”

The characters are numerous. There is a villain, and one surprise is who this is. There are heroes. I have a favorite. That they and he are not drawn as angels, I like too. It adds realism. By the end of the novel, I know exactly who is who. This is quite a feat given that there are so many characters and that the time frame flips back and forth between two periods separated by fifteen years.

The writing has humor. This is shown in simply how things are expressed. For example, teachers are referred to as “suits”, or “tweed jackets” and others as “beards”. We are treated to this sentence: “I’ve been at St. Oswald’s too long to be intimidated by a couple of suits with clipboards.” We smile at a reference to “subversive socks”. There is a funny episode about this. The following sentence isn’t meant to be funny, but I like it too: “To be a teacher is to hide rage when it is truly felt and to feign it when it is not.”

Steven Pacey narrates the audiobook. It is not fair to judge the narration until you near the book’s end and fully understand what is going on. Pacey reads clearly. The speed is perfect—not too fast. Personally, I like to have time to savor the words. Given the difficult task the narration demands, I do think it is worth four stars. Spoiler, and this is a big spoiler—.

I am not a huge fan of mystery novels. Nevertheless, I definitely enjoyed the book a lot.


*Chocolat 4 stars
*Blackberry Wine 4 stars
*Gentlemen & Players 4 stars
Profile Image for Alexis Hall.
Author 50 books10.8k followers
December 13, 2020
Hard to know how to review this one without giving away the twist—and while I generally adopt a staunch “spoilers aren’t the end of the world” stance, on this occasion they would negatively impact the experience of reading.

As previously established (and by previously established, I mean mentioned in passing on reviews of other books), The Secret History has given me an abiding passion for academic settings and murder. And Gentlemen and Players loosely fits this category, being set in a prestigious all-boys boarding school. And involving a murder.

The book is told in alternating chapters: the first in the present from the POV of Roy Straitley, the eccentric and resistant to retirement latin master, and the second in the past from the POV of a mysterious antagonist. It’s pretty gripping, as long as you can find it in you to give a damn about an old man’s devoted to an inherently classist institution (something the book itself is well-aware of).
Given the only other JH book I’ve read is Chocolat, this was quite a change of pace—although I think, ultimately, I liked it more, digging the darker tone and the thrillery pacing. And I’m always super intrigued when authors seem to step away from the thing they’re known for.

What I think was most impressive to me about Gentleman and Players was the way it successfully navigated its complex themes: of both the dangers and the virtues of these exclusive institutions that feel at once vital to a certain conception of Englishness, and at the same utterly alienating. Straitley himself very much embodies these ideas. His life is St Oswalds, he’s pretentious and curmudgeonly and blind to his own prejudices. But, somehow, you warm to anyway.

My only issue was that I felt the spectre of queerness was evoked for the sake of drama. But, basically, very much appreciated this.
Profile Image for Sonia Gomes.
308 reviews94 followers
December 9, 2015
How do you feel when you know you are nothing but the porter’s son and will never ever be accepted by any of the boys at St. Oswald’s?
Oh the agony of being overlooked, ignored, despised when you know that you are as good maybe even better than those snoots.
That’s when you transform yourself from Julian Snyde into Julian Pinchbeck, as Julian Pinchbeck you have the run of St. Oswald's, as the porter’s son you have the bunch of keys that allows you to inspect every nook and cranny of St. Oswald, you know its secrets, its joys and aspirations. As Julian Pinchbeck you can eavesdrop into classes, although never an integral part of St. Oswald, you absorb knowledge like a sponge, you even have a mentor who you respect but also dislike.
Although you feel a part of St. Oswald you know that you will never belong and that turns into a violent hatred for St. Oswald.
And then along comes Leon the rebel…….You love him with a passion, you will do anything, just about anything to be his friend even when he treats you, your father the porter, and all other people in your social class as something revolting.
And then Leon finds out your true identity…….you cannot imagine your life after that, you just cannot imagine…….and then you push him off the roof.
You start a new life far away in France but you are never as vulnerable as you were as the porter’s child. You are now educated and know how to look after yourself pretty well, but all along you nurture that awful hatred for St. Oswald’s, you plot and plan your revenge for a decade and then you return to St. Oswald to wreak your terrible revenge from the very inside of St. Oswald, from its very soul you plan to finish St. Oswald. But what new avatar are you planning on?...........

If you look at Julian Snyde/ Julian Pinchbeck's life, it could be ours too. How many times have we suffered slights, people ignoring you, people treating you like a bucket of garbage just because you do not belong to a particular social class, because we are not rich enough, the list is endless....And the harder you try the more you fail.

Isn't it better then to be your own poor self? Not to compete? Not to try to be someone or something you just cannot be? So much more comfortable, so much more at ease? Doing what you love and trying not to strive to be someone else. For in such cases the race is endless and the goal never in sight.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,560 reviews856 followers
October 20, 2021
Another wonderful written and characterised Joanna Harris novel. A new term, a new group of teachers at a public school - the status quo in the language department is rocked by new ways of working, installation of computers and small, but annoying occurrences and accidents. As these incidents begin to mount, and in time get more serious, there seems to be something awry afoot. Great read! 8 out of 12.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,275 reviews558 followers
February 7, 2017
Oh is this a splendid read! I almost gave it 5 stars until just 50 or 70 so pages from the end, when I think Harris jumped the shark a bit. But then I read "Different Class" first, so having given that one the 5 star, I felt this first one just shied behind it. It is 4.5 star if I could give it that rating.

If you have ever taught for a private institution anywhere, this book will cut to your gut with its sharp spears of recognition. Not just in England is there an embodiment like St. O's. Be it for hundreds of years or 120 or a mere 75, tradition matters. As do the "eyes" of the gargoyle in the bell tower room #59.

It's a maze of characters and most of them have at least one nickname. The cabals and the choirs of allied voices ever altering and taking juxtaposition. You need to be on your toes. This is no easy or sloppy read possibility. In fact, you may need to backtrack if you happen to catch a hint of what you wanted to "grasp" before that section.

The voices are duo narrators. And of course one is always our centurion semester champion. So you also have to focus on who is speaking for that chapter or location. And it helped too, for me, that this was a reread for at least 1/2 of the book. I had this once before, way back in the days when it was a newbie and needed to get it back. Laughingly I thought I could speed through it. NO, this is NOT the book for that possibility. Every nuance counts. And the minutia also makes the mood, the wit, the whole piece living and breathing entire realm of susceptibility cemented within the place and times of St. Oswald's Grammar School for Boys.

There are too many passages that are worth quoting to post here. About liars, charm, duplicity, and stolid honesty? And yet their opposites too. Do we ever stay 14 in our cutting likes and dislikes? And the psycho-babble asides and pop references add no little salt and pepper to the campus stew.
Or to the town or to the Sunnybakers.

Joanne Harris writes well. Now and again there glows a hint of bias- but well forgiven. Because even that is exposed shortly for being there. Like R. Straitley, take his example, miss no glimpse or detail! Highly recommend this book. And after you are finished go on to "Different Class". Don't do it in reverse, as I did. A few characters are in both and I knew who was NOT going to be gone which took away from the planned confusion. Sourgrapes and the League of Nations non-withstanding.

Why is it that most educational situations of esteem worth continue to change their room numbers or hall names or building designations? At anywhere from 5 to 10 years, it's always another go around for continued and proper confusions. It isn't only from donor favor, of that I am sure. IMHO, it's new heads using their own "Audere, agere, auferre" powers. Because they can.

"To dare, to strive, to conquer." I wonder if the gifter of the fob watch will be returning for a class year #3. If possible or if occurring, I can not wait.
Profile Image for WarpDrive.
272 reviews388 followers
October 22, 2016
Delightful, engaging and well written thriller, with an interesting plot and credible characters.

It beautifully recreates the special atmosphere of an old, privileged, traditional educational institution, and the particular set of idiosyncrasies, values, ineradicable and peculiar attitudes that characterize teachers (as well as students) in such a unique environment. The main character, old-school teacher Straitley, is just lovely and his passion for teaching and culture are contagious. You can not but love the man and wish that you had a teacher like that in your own youth.

The finale is also quite good and an apt conclusion to a riveting and well written novel presenting interesting twists and turns. The complex, deep, almost all-consuming relationship between the school and the main characters is beautifully portrayed. St Oswald's School and its peculiar atmosphere with its sounds, smells, and timeless weight of tradition will stay with the reader well after the book is finished.

Highly recommended and a well-deserved 4 star rating.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,640 reviews598 followers
June 24, 2021
This book has at its heart a minor public school, St Oswald's, a place where tradition and values are of great importance. The story is told part in flashbacks, partly from the point of view of a new member of staff aiming to wreak revenge on the institution and partly from the point of view of Roy Straitley the Latin Master. The now member of staff knows the school well - their father was once the Porter, and the flashbacks concern their childhood and a desperate wish to escape being a bookish, undersized child at the local comprehensive and a deep desire to be accepted at St Oswald's. The wish was so deep that they masqueraded as a pupil, establishing an identity and a friendship with one of the real pupil's.

Roy Straitley has taught at St Oswald's for thirty three years and is aiming to complete his 100th term at the school. Over the years he has seen many incidents and scandals, including the one involving the Porter John Snyde, but nothing like the problems which plague the school that term. It starts with rumours, missing items and accusations and escalates to more serious incidents. Harris builds the tension brilliantly and Straitley is a likeable and intelligent character. There is a wonderful twist to the tale, but you should really read this for yourself - and what a treat you have in store if you haven't already read it. An excellent, literary crime novel; the author conveys the atmosphere of the school and the people who inhabit it so well that it really pulls the reader in.
Profile Image for Petya.
165 reviews
February 25, 2014
Хареса ми "Джентълмени и играчи". Джоан Харис е във вихъра на разбойническия си тип книги, които се характеризират с интел��гентно планиране и много изненади! :) Това ми е втората книга на Харис в този стил. Първата беше "Свещени безумци". И двете са добри попадения. Не от типа много стойностни книги, които имат силни послания, а от типа съспенс, които поддържат интереса буден. Книги за удоволствие и разпускане.:) Авторката се е справила чудесно с психологическото изграждане на образите. Преподавателите в "Сейнт Осуалдс" и атмосферата са съвсем реалистични, което се постига само с дълбоко познаване на подобна среда. Сходно беше чувството ми и докато четях "Свещени безумци".:)
Profile Image for Julie.
553 reviews276 followers
January 9, 2018
Nothing but pure delight -- entertainment at its best, with a few life lessons thrown in, for good measure.

Joanne Harris novels never fail to put me in a good mood, just through the sheer delight of her writing. Sometimes you just need to smile, and be entertained. Sometimes you just need a good game of (psychological) chess to chase away the cobwebs of winter. This delivers on both counts.
Profile Image for Tatevik.
457 reviews90 followers
April 10, 2021
It takes courage sometimes to face up to the truth. To see our heroes—and our villains—as they really are. To see ourselves as others see us.

Any mystery/thriller writer needs to take a leaf from her book. The idea of the huge twist and the illusion she created during the whole story makes me to take my hat off to her. Even Agatha Christie is not that strong with giving you this illusion. But that's it.

I had some issues with this book.

First, she is not a detective writer, she lacks the ability to keep the reader anticipated as thriller and mystery writers do. She is perfect for a slow paced storyline to enjoy with a cup of tea in the evenings, about characters you want to be friends with and enjoy knowing more about them.

Second, she couldn't convince me with this one. Great motive and great idea, but "the bad guy" was so flat for me. I was not satisfied. I needed more character development, I wanted this character to be Mizoguchi from The Temple Of The Golden Pavilion.

In any case, England, a private boarding school, classics master, gentlemen, a little mischief, and a beautiful prose. Nothing more is needed for me!

Profile Image for Diana Stoyanova.
589 reviews123 followers
November 2, 2018
"Джентълмени и играчи“ е много комплексна книга. Едновременно носи дълбок смисъл, тегава атмосфера и чувство за хумор. Джоан Харис се е справила страхотно да предаде толкова силни послания, поднесени разчупено и с доза ирония.

Сюжетът на „Джентълмени и играчи“ се развива в старата английска момчешка гимназия - „Сейнт Осуалдс“- , славеща се със своите традиции, а историята е поднесена от две различни перспективи- на преподавател от училището и на още един персонаж, който копнее да е част от този недостижим за него свят.
Книгата е построена като игра на шах, в която последователно се редуват ходовете на отделните герои и ни разкриват историята на гимназия "Сейнт Осуалдс" от различен ъгъл.
Партията, които се разиграва, обаче, не е обикновена, а залогът е на живот и смърт.
Всичките коварни планове, които се осъществяват на страниците на "Джентълмени и играчи" е всъщ��ост отчаяна нужда един невидим човек да бъде забелязан, най- накрая.
В желанието си да бъде НЯКОЙ, той стига твърде далеч, но и това не може да компенсира пустотата и неудовлетворението в самия него, защото значимостта е усещане, което идва най- вече отвътре, а не отвън.

Много ми хареса начинът, по който е изграден сюжета, както и самата история. Имаше момент, в който изпитах известно разочарование, когато Рой Стрейтли уж разконспирира цялата загадка. Беше ми странно, някак си ми се стори много неубедително, не заради друго, а защото от фактите, които бяха налице, беше сравнително трудно, даже абсурдно, някой да си извади толкова кристално чисти изводи и да направи толкова ясна взаимовръзка. И тъкмо се опитвах да потисна недоволството си от усещането за претупаност накрая, когато изведнъж Джоан Харис поднесе "ново двайсет"- разкритие, което честно казано ме изненада, нямах никакви подозрения или догадки. Ето това вече ме размаза от кеф, честно.  В допълнение, героите бяха прекрасно изваяни- имаха дълбочина, характер, живец, усещане за завършеност.

Много съм доволна от книгата. Това ми е първа среща с творчеството на Джоан Харис, от която останах очарована, и определено няма да ми е последна. Продължавам с " Различен клас", който е свързан с " Джентълмени и играчи" и надгражда историята.


"Всяко нещо при достатъчно често повтаряне се превръща в навик. "
Profile Image for The Book Whisperer (aka Boof).
342 reviews236 followers
November 29, 2009
What a great book; especially the end where I did NOT see any of those twists coming. It's the sort of book that makes you want to turn to the beginning again to see where you might have picked up clues or see what you missed.

I am a HUGE Joanne Harris fan, my favourites of hers being the "foodie" books and I must admit to being a tad sceptical when I picked this up thinking that maybe she wouldn't do thriller novels quite as well. I was wrong - this lady is no one-trick-pony. From the first page you know that there are a murder or two which sets the reader up for the unfolding story ahead. The story is set in a public boys school that is centuries old and has a mighty reputation to uphold and is narrated by two people in turn to keep us guessing. The old school teacher, Mr Straitley, adds some real comic moments too which add warmth to the book. However, whatever you think you know about this book, think again. By three quarters of the way through I guarantee that you will flick back wondering when you could possibly have missed the signs (not once but twice). Mwaaaaahahahahahaha!

I highly recommend this book; I had great fun reading it.

Profile Image for Karen.
805 reviews1,011 followers
July 18, 2019

“Most adults assume that the feelings of adolescence don't count, somehow, and that those searing passions of rage and hate and embarrassment and horror and hopeless, abject love are something your grow out of, something hormonal, a practice run for the Real Thing. It wasn't. At 13 *everything* counts; there are sharp edges on everything, and all of them cut.”

An intriguing storyline and a twisted plot put this one in a whole new category for me. Of course we all know what a fabulous writer Joanne Harris is, that was never in question. But for the first three quarters of this book, I had to wonder... what is the purpose to all of this. I was even growing a little bored with it. Ha! Little did I know that I was about to be tossed off a cliff. What an ending! It made me see the entire book in a whole new light. Fabulous work. Loved it. And I can't fail to mention the narrator of the audiobook, Steven Pacey, who did a wonderful job.
I will look forward to reading many more books by Joanne Harris.
Profile Image for Wendy.
111 reviews
February 16, 2009
The thing I really like about Joanne Harris (Chocolat, Five Quarters of an Orange, etc.) is that she is not a formula writer. Each of her books is unique and can stand on its own merits. Gentlemen and Players is a bit of a cat and mouse thriller that effectively uses a chess analogy throughout the novel. Lots of twists and turns in this mystery. Many of the characters' names are cleverly used to offer some insights and hints. But don't read too, much about the story beforehand if you want to enjoy the full effect of the surprises.
Profile Image for Kevin.
1,366 reviews61 followers
July 7, 2022
This cat-and-mouse book is in a word…brilliant! I savored this from start to finish, gobbling up the pages as fast as possible. The twists and intensity in the writing reminded me of Patricia Highsmith's best work. Joanne Harris is a marvel! I cannot recommend this one more highly.
Profile Image for Autumn.
98 reviews8 followers
October 30, 2008
Alright, I'll say right up front that I would have given this book five stars, except that it has more profanity and school-boy crudities than I'm comfortable with in a book. But, (and this might be a bad thing), I'm willing to put up with a little more of that in a really great book. This book is definitely more PG13 than PG.
That being said, it's a great story. It's set in a boys' prep school in England and the story centers around Roy Straitley, a latin professor who has taught there for 33 years. Chapters are alternately told in his voice, and the voice of an unnamed new professor who plans to "take down" the school. We know from the outset that this new professor is planning murder and mayhem, but we don't know who he is or what he's planning to do. I love Straitley's wry sense of humor and his take on academic life. And the intended murder/mystery aspect is quite gripping. I finished the book sitting on the stairs by the kitchen while my kids ate breakfast one morning.

PS - if you don't like profanity, don't look up the meaning to the latin phrases used by the students :) Just so you are forewarned...
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
696 reviews1,073 followers
June 2, 2017
An incredibly clever book!
We take the premise of an all boys grammar school, add a person with a serious grudge and things start to get interesting!
It unfolds slowly, we know very little about the main character or what caused their hatred of the infamous 'St Oswalds School' - we follow them as they infiltrate the school and plan its ultimate downfall.
I can't give away too much all I will say is the twist at the end has to be one of the greatest twists in contemporary literature. It royally screws your brain and completely rewrites everything you have just read!
Profile Image for Christine.
6,611 reviews478 followers
July 28, 2016
I honesty think this is Harris' best book. I truly do.

To talk to much about the plot is to give away a bit too many spoilers, and part of the joy of the book is the mystery so, let's not do that. What I love, besides the mystery, is the look at class, gender, and blind love that we can't fully rationalize. There are so many parallels between the central characters and this is a winning aspect of the novel.
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,034 reviews1,419 followers
December 2, 2022
This is the first instalment in the Malbry series.

St Oswald's is an elite grammar school luring the wealthy into its doors and, for those less well blessed financially, to only envy the privileged lifestyle of those who attend it. Our protagonist has spent their entire life yearning to belong and this academic institution is the only place that has ever felt like home, despite never rightfully earning a place there.

This title promised a plethora of things I love about dark academia - pretentious characters, gluttony in many forms, secrets and mysteries, and a fair amount of bloodshed. It delivered it all and yet I felt strangely unsatisfied throughout.

The reader felt privy to the secrets whereas other characters were not, but this was proven false by a late reveal that I did not see coming. It did shock me but, again, I did not feel wholly satisfied by it and I can't accurately explain why. Perhaps it was due to the slow prior plotting or the sense of foreboding that dogged all scenes and had me anticipating an explosive final showdown between all the characters. Perhaps it was due to the enormity of emotions experienced by said characters but how the roots of these was never properly uncovered, leading the reader to wonder just where the dual love and hatred truly stemmed from.

Either way, this was an enjoyable read but when I peered too closely at it I found questions raised and never properly answered and I turned the final pages slightly unsatisfied.
Profile Image for Overbooked  ✎.
1,494 reviews
December 8, 2015
A brilliant psychological thriller where the criminal is playing a game of chess with the staff at St Oswald's, a posh all boys’ school, with the aim of bringing down the school by tarnishing its reputation. The main target is an old-fashioned teacher named Quaz (AKA Quasimodo since he resides in the school tower), I loved this character!
The novel alternates chapters from the perpetrator and the old teacher perspective. Harris does a wonderful job in creating a credible psychopath with a grudge. Although I sensed the identity of the perpetrator, it was a very nice twist. The ending felt a little drawn-out, but a very enjoyable read. I loved Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange but stopped reading Harris' novels when Blackberry Wine, Holy Fools and Coastliners left me unimpressed. I’m glad I tried Gentlemen and Players, after seeing it mentioned in one GR groups, I’m sure there are other gems of hers for me to discover. A recommended read.
Profile Image for Laura.
746 reviews269 followers
September 11, 2011
4-4.25 stars. A solid, good read! Fantastic, believable characters, excellent writing. It loses a bit because I hated the villain TOO much. The audio performance is amazing. Better than the book. If you're looking for a cat-and-mouse suspense read, this is it. The older Latin teacher - I will never forget him. What a three-dimensional, awesome man I would love to meet. Any teacher I think would especially appreciate this book.
Profile Image for Sandra.
224 reviews50 followers
August 29, 2022
This is a book I had many years ago as a paperback and I never got around to reading it. When I saw that Harris’ recent book, A Narrow Door, was her fourth novel in the Malbry Cycle of psychological thrillers, I thought this was the time to start this series. I’m glad I did .
Gentlemen and Players is a book of obsession, murder and revenge, set in St Oswalds school for boys. Well written with a bit humour thrown in........very enjoyable 😊. 4.5 ⭐️
Profile Image for Lauren.
768 reviews34 followers
October 7, 2010
May 1st, 2007 (Two weeks before Ava was born)

Not recommended!

I went to Kepler's a week ago and almost came home with four new books. But I instituted an emergency policy on the spot -- only one book purchase allowed -- and I picked this one. It sounded so promising... I love page turners and this was touted as "wickedly funny", literary, and all that good stuff. But my high hopes were dashed! And I gave up after about 120 pages.

In short, two narrators -- one who is supposed to be acerbically witty and the other who is ominously sinister. But I found neither to be particularly well done. I'm ruined by Arthur Phillips' "The Egyptologist" and Nabokov's "Pale Fire". The unreliable narrators in those novels are finely wrought, hilarious, and clever to boot. This book just felt common.

Moving on...


After a comment on my review by a "stranger" on Goodreads, I thought I'd give this book another try.


October 6th, 2010 (Two weeks after David was born)

Okay, I'm circling back to review this book more fully, after picking it up again after three years and actually finishing it. First of all, my review from three years ago was totally off-base and mildly embarrassing in retrospect. I don't know what business I had comparing one of the narrators of this novel to the "unreliable narrators" of "Pale Fire" and "The Egyptologist." My guess is that I was actually misusing the phrase "unreliable narrator," because "Gentlemen and Players" has no unreliable narrator. So, shame on you, Lauren of three years ago!

I enjoyed this book after picking it up again. The rough plot is that someone is wreaking havoc at a crusty old-boy prep school in England. That somebody is one of a handful of new teachers, someone who has a history with the school -- harkening back to childhood when they were an outsider, the progeny of the school "porter." It's a sort of whodunit where the reader spends the novel guessing at this individual's identity. I actually knew from the beginning who the "bad guy" was, probably because three years ago when I first attempted to read the book and decided not to finish, I must have skimmed ahead (double shame on me!). But I enjoyed the book nonetheless. It isn't exactly deep, and for more insightful treatments of class at prep schools, I prefer "Prep" by Curtis Sittenfeld and "Old School" by Tobias Wolff. But this was a thriller and a decently-written one. I wouldn't classify it as "literary," because although the writing was steady, the themes weren't particularly insightful or deep.
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