Van has finished reading…Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris

26 Nov

It’s amazing how early your assumptions can settle as a reader. Like at the top of the second page. There are four words that become a pin stuck into fabric. It’s such a vague early impression, the kind of thing you’ll be wholly familiar with when you’re reading your way into a story, working out what’s what and who’s who. It’s quite a stroke of genius, I think, but the thing that really makes this book work so well is that Joanne Harris didn’t once try and draw a big arrow or underline or highlight it. It’s like seeing a yellow leaf fall in October and realising your brain has said, ‘it’s autumn.’

And the confidence in that line flows on. As you read you build the world around this assumption and there’s nothing to disabuse you of it (at least nothing strong enough for me to remember). We have more than one point of view, after all. The clues may well be there, lurking like an ablative error.

Of course when you get to that point where you realise you’ve been had (no, I don’t mean that detrimentally, it’s quicker than saying you realise you’ve allowed yourself to form all these opinions about what’s going on that are based on a point so far back in the book now that you can’t put your finger on what it was – that’s all) you start looking back to see how misshapen the fabric’s become; you start wondering, marvelling. And then there’s the thought that this would be one of those books worth reading again because now you know.

The characters are expertly pitched – indeed, if they weren’t I think the reader would feel they’d been had when that moment comes. The points of view in the book pit class, age, even educational needs against each other. And although it’s a large school which seems to consume the attention of its inhabitants, it’s a small small world in which they revolve. In one case, smaller than they’d ever imagined.

Read it, and then read it again. It may be even better the second time around!

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