About this book…
After thirty years at St Oswald’s Grammar in North Yorkshire, Latin master Roy Straitley has seen all kinds of boys come and go. But every so often there’s a boy who doesn’t fit the mould. A troublemaker. A boy with hidden shadows inside.
A new broom has arrived, bringing Powerpoint, sharp suits and even sixth form girls to the dusty corridors. But while Straitley does his sardonic best to resist this march to the future, a shadow from his past is stirring. A boy who even twenty years on haunts his teacher’s dreams. A boy capable of bad things.
When I found out that Joanne Harris had written another novel set at St Oswalds, a boys grammar school in the North of England, I was rather excited! Gentlemen and Players is one of the favourite books on my bookshelves and I couldn’t wait to get stuck into this new insight into the eccentric world of Roy Straitley, Latin master at the school.
It’s 2005 and Roy is once again contemplating retirement. Things are changing in the world of academia, Latin is not everyone’s choice of language to study anymore and the sixth form are even letting girls in! The usual petty squabbles are still there and there is a surprising choice for the new headmaster who is there to stir things up. We are also being drip fed information from 1981 in the form of a diary. The diary is written in the form of letters to “Mousy” and tells of three new boys who have come to study at St Oswalds. The story twists and turns till both come together in a climatic finale.
Although I did enjoy this story, I think my adoration for Gentlemen and Players meant that this was quite overshadowed for me. The story itself is great and I loved trying to work out who was writing the diary from clues in the present day (I was wrong!) But I found it slower to come together than I was expecting even though I read it in just a couple of sittings. The themes of struggling with sexuality, and changes within education are all handled well with the authors usual black humour and she has created a creepy cast of characters around these themes.
This was a slower moving novel than Gentlemen and Players and I did flag slightly in the middle but saying that the ending did make up for that with its twisty revelations. I’m sure other will find it totally compelling but it just didn’t quite live up to its predecessor for me.
I received a copy of this book via netgalley in return for an unbiased review.
Publication date 21st April 2016