cover image Gentlemen and Players

Gentlemen and Players

Joanne Harris, . . Morrow, $24.95 (422pp) ISBN 978-0-06-055914-4

Bestseller Harris (Holy Fools ) exposes the brittle line dividing the haves and have-nots in this disturbing yet strangely rewarding morality tale set in the hallowed halls of St. Oswald's, an aristocratic British boys' school hovering on the edge of extinction. Audere, agere, auferre (To dare, to strive, to conquer), the school motto, is something young outsider Snyde, whose father has become St. Oswald's porter (or caretaker), takes painfully to heart after infiltrating the institution as a student under the alias "Julian Pinchbeck." Snyde's secret crush on Leon Mitchell, a charismatic upper-class boy, leads to tragic consequences that include the senior Snyde's losing his job. Fifteen years later, Snyde returns, masquerading as a teacher and plotting retribution. Classics teacher Roy Straitley, with his easygoing, ruefully resigned viewpoint, nicely contrasts with Snyde's relentless first-person intensity. Straitley, who loves St. Oswald's, unwittingly proves to be a formidable opponent and provides Snyde with a vital lesson: not every chess game ends with checkmate. Agent, Howard Morhaim. 5-city author tour. (Jan.)