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4 Local Warehouse Literature- A to Z

Gentlemen and Players: A Novel (P.S.)


Gentlemen and Players: A Novel (P.S.) Cover



Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion

1. The favorite book of the young Snyde is The Invisible Man. Poe's law is also quoted: "The object that is hidden in plain sight remains unseen longest." Through childhood and into adulthood, how does Snyde, in fact, become invisible?

2. Early in the novel, young Snyde says, "I felt cheated, as I often did when faced with the threat and assurances of the adult world, which promises so much and delivers so little." What does this say about the character? Give some examples of ways in which the adult world has cheated Snyde. Which do you feel has the longest lasting impact on Snyde as an adolescent? As an adult?

3. Throughout the novel, Snyde remembers days as a student in Sunnybank Park—and the desire then to be a student at St. Oswald's. What do you believe would have happened had Snyde been enrolled at St. Oswald's as a student? Would such a student have thrived academically? Been accepted socially? How might things have played out differently, if at all?

4. While at Sunnybank Park, Snyde had a young student teacher, Miss Potts, who "liked to be popular-to be important." She goes about this by taking an active interest in her students and especially their problems-things the older teachers do not notice. She realizes something is wrong with Snyde. How might things have been different if there had been more teachers who took notice of the pupils' problems early on?

5. "Fallow offends me," Snyde says of St. Oswald's current day groundskeeper. It is not the occupation that offends Snyde, but how Fallow executes his tasks: sluggish, ignoring his duties, not taking pride in his work. The exact opposite of the way Snyde's father worked. What does this contempt of Fallow say about young Snyde's filial feelings?

6. Snyde says of Anderton-Pullitt: "there is one of his kind in every year. Shunned even beyond being bullied." Could Snyde be identifying with Anderton-Pullitt? Which student, if any, at St. Oswald's most resembles the young Snyde? Do any resemble Leon?

7. Early in his life, Snyde developed a feeling of entitlement for "that childhood. The one I deserved," a life of privilege. Where do you think the roots of these sentiments began?

8. "I can identify with a boy like Knight," Snyde says. "I was nothing like him-infinitely tougher, more vicious and more streetwise-but with money and better parents I might have turned out just the same." What does this say about Snyde's decision to use Knight-of all boys-in the plan to destroy St. Oswald's? Is it because Knight is weak or because Knight is a reminder of who Snyde could have been?

9. Straightly comments on how "St. Oswald's has a way of eating those things. The energy; the ambition; the dreams" of its faculty. In light of this, or perhaps in spite of it, Straitley's goal in life is clear: to reach his Century and retire with honor. Why do you suppose this is so important to him?

10. A continual theme throughout the novel is nature vs. nurture. Do you believe a person is born evil or do the circumstances of that person's upbringing cause these traits? When talking about Leon, Straitley seems to believe some kids are just born bad. How is this different from Snyde's belief?

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Lydia Cox, October 25, 2013 (view all comments by Lydia Cox)
This read will keep you on your toes! While the first half paints a vivid picture of life for a young boy and the relationships surrounding him, the second half is a page turner that takes you through so many twists and turns that it's difficult to know who is who and where the truth lies. You'll have a hard time putting this one down.
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redrockbookworm, July 22, 2008 (view all comments by redrockbookworm)
For this reader Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris is a blockbuster of a novel with more twists and turns than an amusement park thrill ride. Set at a British boys' school, this riveting tale plays out like a game of chess with each move and counter-move by the participants advancing the story toward its unexpected climax.

The narrative itself covers a fifteen year period in the history of St. Oswald's School for Boys and moves back and forth in time between past AND present. Through the eyes of its two narrators, one a Professor of Classics and the other the offspring of the schools groundskeeper, we are given an "up close and personal" look at subjects as diverse as the youthful despair of "not belonging", to the inner workings of an obsessive mind, to the ambitious in-fighting and competitiveness of the teaching profession.

I will go no further with my critique since too much information would ultimately ruin the surprises neatly concealed in this tale of malice and revenge run amok. Suffice to say that Joanne Harris has given us a protagonist equal to Patricia Highsmith's sociopathic Tom Ripley character.
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Product Details

Harris, Joanne
Harper Perennial
by Joanne Harris
by Joanne Harris
Mystery & Detective - Traditional British
General Fiction
Boarding schools
Mystery fiction
Mystery-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.00x5.36x1.08 in. .72 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Suspense

Gentlemen and Players: A Novel (P.S.) Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.50 In Stock
Product details 448 pages Harper Perennial - English 9780060559151 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "For readers who fancy an intricate mystery and story line that also touches on anti-Semitism and vicious intra-faculty politics, with expertly sketched heroes, buffoons and rogues to match, Gentlemen and Players will tease the mind and touch one's soul."
"Review" by , "Constantly surprising and wickedly fun....Beyond the book's considerable entertainment value, Harris has written an unsettling reminder of how much our orderly lives depend on a fragile level of trust."
"Review" by , "[M]oves skillfully between the two perspectives and between past and present in a well-crafted mystery. Harris shows a deep understanding of the politics of academia and the routine of the classroom, as well as the demands of a solid mystery."
"Review" by , "[A]n atypical thriller. Rather than suspense, dramatic irony drives the plot; and two participants, both a little unreliable, tell the story. It's a lot for one novel to do, and Harris isn't quite able to force all the pieces into place."
"Review" by , "The problem with giving Snyde a narrative soapbox is that the more the reader knows about this character, the less plausible this character becomes. A daring gambit, poorly played."
"Review" by , "Harris shows what a master storyteller she is through the play and counterplay of current happenings twisting through the telling of what went on before. The story builds suspensefully and cleverly with surprises and turns to a satisfying denouement."
"Synopsis" by , Friendship, murder, revenge, and class conflict collide in an upper-crust English school. As a new term gets under way, a number of annoying incidents befall students and faculty, escalating to murder.
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