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Gentlemen and Players

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3.92  ·  Rating details ·  14,699 ratings  ·  1,660 reviews
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 t ...more
Hardcover, 422 pages
Published January 3rd 2006 by William Morrow (first published 2005)
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Kay It's a reference to Muriel Spark's "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" where the teacher, Miss Brodie, has her own set of favourite girls. …moreIt's a reference to Muriel Spark's "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" where the teacher, Miss Brodie, has her own set of favourite girls. (less)
Jessica Nicastro Hi Sallie, I found that following the chess pieces helped to signify the narrator. There was a white king piece at the beginning of Straitley's chapte…moreHi Sallie, I found that following the chess pieces helped to signify the narrator. There was a white king piece at the beginning of Straitley's chapters and black pawns at the beginning of the unknown narrator’s parts (at least in my copy). (less)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  14,699 ratings  ·  1,660 reviews


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Will Byrnes
Oct 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 destructi ...more
B the BookAddict
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Most Highly Recommended
Shelves: fiction



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 fol
...more
Phrynne
Oct 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 becau ...more
C.G. Drews
In my quest to find more dark academia (and also read more adult lit), I tried this one and I am mostly throughly have to say...nope. 😂When a main plotline is an old guy not wanting to retire, I absolutely could not care less. I liked Pinchbeck's storyline the most and the twist for that at the end was very good. But overall, tedious and detached, and I get it was written with confusing POV 1st person narratives to keep you guessing about the killer, but it was too confusing.

(it is also not quee
...more
Vonia
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
...more
Tooter
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Alexis Hall
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 prestigio
...more
WarpDrive
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
...more
Jeanette
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Sonia Gomes
Dec 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 21st-century, british
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.
The Book Whisperer (aka Boof)
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
...more
Wendy
Jan 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 enj ...more
Autumn
Oct 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 ye
...more
Karen
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 STARS

“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
...more
Christine
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.
...more
Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎
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
...more
Charlotte May
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 scre
...more
Monique
Wow..what can I say about this book but I was blown away..Its an effort and exercise in vocabulary and patience but well worth it..The surprise twist that comes around page 324 is enough to make this book unforgettable and rare..This is the story of a prestigious all boys day school St. Oswalds and all the characters and secrets it holds are revealed to us by two narrators you love and hate... on one hand you have the loveable old Mr Straitley: a tweed jacket wearing relic of the old academic er ...more
Victoria
Apr 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Joanne Harris’ novels have consistently impressed me since first discovering her. She’s a great writer, and I just love the cadence of her prose and the wonderfully realistic characters that she presents in a vivid and rich setting. This more literary mystery of hers is no exception - it’s an enjoyable and entertaining read. The “evil” narrator’s real identity is not impossible to figure out before the end, but it doesn’t detract from the fun in reading it, and adds that wonderful joy of being r ...more
Lauren
Apr 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 wi
...more
Anna
Rating: 4.5 stars

I really enjoyed this, it's different and quirky despite having dark undertones; the first line reads: 'If there's one thing I've learned in the last fifteen years is that murder is really no big deal.'

Roy Straitley has been the Latin Master at St Oswald's Grammar School for Boys for 33 years. Resistant to change, he's seen as a dinosaur to be humoured but ultimately removed, even though he still commands the respect of the boys and is dedicated to the school.

A new term brings n
...more
Abby
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was all over the place with this book. Thinking one thing, then another, then another... Listening to the audio format wasn't exactly the best thing either, because I initially thought that the other parts were Straitley as a child simply because it was the same narrator throughout. But I figured it out eventually. But then we were intentionally misled and taken on a massive roller coaster ride. Whew, I'm exhausted! A very interesting and unique mystery that's hidden away from the mainstream. ...more
Kyle
Oct 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
From what started out as a neat premise quickly devolved into a tedious, meandering puddle of words. I will say this much, I was hooked from the beginning; The plot for revenge by an outcast antihero. Going back and forth in narration between the PAWN, our schemer (with trips back into the past, and present) and the KING, the "Classics" Master, old centurion Mr. Roy Straitley, we find ourselves as readers woven into the murky history of St. Oswald's school for boys, and the lengths some will go ...more
Nicole Field
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Where do I start with this review?

I've read a number of Joanne Harris' books. Almost all of them.

This one blew all of those books out of the water.

In my experience with her books, I've come to learn that there is a place in the middle where the plot lags, or the characters irritate me, or something just slows down enough for me to put the book down and pick something else up before going back to it.

That point didn't happen in this book. It was fast paced and neat and every character was develope
...more
Laura
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: xx-2011-xx
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. ...more
Amanda Patterson
Excellent. Harris's best. Changing genres, yet keeping her mysterious twists and turns, G & P will hold your interest. The characters are extraordinary,the plot paced just so, the story is superb. It is a clever tour de force. Nothing is as it seems.One of my top 5 books for 2006 ...more
Renita D'Silva
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved this witty and wonderful story. Straitley is absolutely wonderful.
Lindsay
Sep 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Gentlemen and Players" may not be the best known of Joanne Harris's works, "Chocolat" undoubtedly holds that title, but this novel is a riveting story worthy of praise for its intelligence and ingenuity. Centered around the public (private for those of us in the US) St. Oswald's grammar school for boys where things begin to go terribly wrong - and we are not talking paper airplanes and spit balls disorder, more like school for scandal.

As the school, and surrounding town, attempt to come to gri
...more
Allan
May 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was a book club read that was at the same time both entertaining and completely unbelievable narrative wise. Found myself laughing out loud with incredulity on a couple of occasions, as the clichés flowed- and as for the twist...
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4,904 followers
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 pr ...more

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