Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Gentleman

Who among you would attempt to save your spouse from the clutches of Satan? It's quite a compelling question, especially for Lionel Savage, a Victorian era poet, and a bad one at that. It's all the more difficult because he married Vivien for her money. No love there. Perplexing? I'd say "Aye!".
   This is a first novel set in early 1900's amid the moneyed glamor of Downtown Abbey, without our favorite characters, threaded through with wry commentaries at the bottom of most pages by another character, an attorney. Savage's predicament is truly awful for a poet; once married, he finds he cannot write. And worse, the beautiful woman who is his wife is not a match; he finds her vapid and shallow, hosting parties and hardly conversing with him. It is only when The Gentleman, who claims to be from Essex Grove- not that horrible place that starts with H- arrives at one of these soirees, and Vivien disappears, that Lionel is prompted to take on a grand rescue effort with a company that includes his brother-in law,a worldwide adventurer, his sister, recently given the boot from her university because of a love affair, a friend who sells old  books, his butler, and an inventor who builds a "flying machine". The best thing about this book is the voice of the author, who grew up in the wilds of Alaska under the opposite circumstances of his characters. Forrest Leo has captured the British sensibility, the language, and the unique styling of an upper-class Englishman. It's a little bit Monty Python, a little Princess Bride-esque and with a surprise ending, and a nod to a woman's capacity for inventiveness, given a difficult situation. The writing is pure cleverness and that sort of suppressed humor that we have come to love from the Brits.
   Is the Gentleman of the title really the guest from Essex Grove? I think not. I believe it is Lionel himself. Is this a mystery? Perhaps. Lovably eccentric? Definitely. Worth a read. Indisputably.  
    If you enjoy this stort of a book, consider reading Sophie and the Sibyl: A Victorian Romance,by Patricia Duncker or Julian Fellowes's Belgravia, by the author and creator of Downton Abbey.

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