Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris


Synopsis taken from Blackwell Bookshops:

The place is St Oswald’s, an old and long-established boys’ grammar school in the north of England. A new year has just begun, and for the staff and boys of the school, a wind of unwelcome change is blowing. Suits, paperwork and Information Technology rule the world and Roy Straitley, Latin master, eccentric, and veteran of St Oswald’s, is finally – reluctantly – contemplating retirement. But beneath the little rivalries, petty disputes and everyday crises of the school, a darker undercurrent stirs. And a bitter grudge, hidden and carefully nurtured for thirteen years, is about to erupt. Who is Mole, the mysterious insider, whose cruel practical jokes are gradually escalating towards violence – and perhaps, murder? And how can an old and half-forgotten scandal become the stone that brings down a giant?


Leave a comment


  1. michelebbc

     /  August 20, 2010

    Yes I agree our cover was a little boring! No latin, I found those translations in the wikipedia article about the book.

  2. madeleinebbc

     /  August 19, 2010

    Two quick comments; 1)I’m obviously not going to judge a book by it’s cover but isn’t the one above so much more likely to make you pick it up than the version we all had? 2) Thanks Michelle! Latin another one of your hidden talents!?

  3. malcolmbbc

     /  August 19, 2010

    Sorry I missed the meeting. Its always baffling when everyone disagrees, but dull when everyone has the same opinion.

    I enjoyed the book. I’d previously read Chocolat and one other – enjoyed them but getting a bit tired of the food-related other-worldly spirituality. So this was a complete change and a welcome one.

    I had a strong picture in my mind of the school, largely informed by growing up near to Wellington College in Berkshire. The grounds were largely open so us oiks could pretty much wander at will over the weekend. And whilst there was no real hostility, there was still an underlying antagonism – we used to refer to the school grounds as “Rodneyland”. Harris’s school also brought Ghormenghast to my mind in the descriptions of endless interlocking.

    I read the book as a black comedy and I felt that the character names fitted within this style. Given that our anti hero was a murderer with cold revenge in the heart, it needed a bit of comedy to remind us that it wasn’t real. Read it cold and the story is just gruesome.

    I was also impressed with the plot twist at the end. I’m not going to give it away, but I certainly didn’t spot it coming.

    Thanks Michele for the translations – I had to skip over these.

  4. michelebbc

     /  August 18, 2010

    Some of the group loved it, some hated it! Always makes for a good chat.
    I found some elements a little irritating, the names of the characters for example reminded me a little of the way Terry Pratchett uses names to signify personality and I found that a bit silly. Otherwise I enjoyed the book, I always love an unbalanced anti-hero! I could see similarities with the Ripley character created by Patricia Highsmith and wonder if there may be more to come featuring the same character? This is one I will keep to read again.
    It was mentioned in the meeting about the use of latin without a glossary, so here are a couple of translations:
    “Ecce, stercus pro cerebro habes.” [Lo, you have shit for brains] (Straitley to Jeff Light, who has just expressed his dislike of Latin by calling the Romans “queers in togas”)
    “Hic magister podex est.” [This teacher is an arse] (Straitley’s favourite graffiti about his own person)


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