When Lionel Savage, a popular poet in Victorian London, learns from his butler that they're broke, he marries the beautiful Vivien Lancaster for her money, only to find that his muse has abandoned him.
Distraught and contemplating suicide, Savage accidentally conjures the Devil -- the polite "Gentleman" of the title -- who appears at one of the society parties Savage abhors. The two hit it off: the Devil talks about his home, where he employs Dante as a gardener; Savage lends him a volume of Tennyson. But when the party's over and Vivien has disappeared, the poet concludes in horror that he must have inadvertently sold his wife to the dark lord.
Newly in love with Vivien, Savage plans a rescue mission to Hell that includes Simmons, the butler; Tompkins, the bookseller; Ashley Lancaster, swashbuckling Buddhist; Will Kensington, inventor of a flying machine; and Savage's spirited kid sister, Lizzie, freshly booted from boarding school for a "dalliance." Throughout, his cousin's quibbling footnotes to the text push the story into comedy nirvana.
Lionel and his friends encounter trapdoors, duels, anarchist-fearing bobbies, the social pressure of not knowing enough about art history, and the poisonous wit of his poetical archenemy. Fresh, action-packed and very, very funny, The Gentleman is a giddy farce that recalls the masterful confections of P.G. Wodehouse and Hergé's beautifully detailed Tintin adventures.
“A funny, fantastically entertaining debut novel, in the spirit of Wodehouse and Monty Python, about a famous poet who inadvertently sells his wife to the devil–then recruits a band of adventurers to rescue her.”
This is a short and sweet book review.
I read this book back in February because I was planning on reviewing it for National Poetry Month (in April), but April was busier than I anticipated. Thus, I am reviewing it now, even though its hilarity and cleverness are not freshly imprinted on my brain.
This witty and entertaining Victorian era novel is true to form and unfolds in 19th century dialect. The Gentleman is not a fast read because of the period syntax, but it is oh, so enjoyable. Period detail throughout is on point, and the characters are delightfully shallow. You will end up staging this book like a theatre play in your mind’s eye because it is so easy to imagine the story world and characters from the author’s exquisite attention to detail.
Fans of Jane Austen’s Emma will enjoy the twists and turns and mixups that the popular poet, Lionel Savage, encounters. The story switches narration between the poet and his editor, who admits that he reluctantly published the poet’s story that readers are indulging in. (The editor regularly interjects with footnotes and quotes before the beginning of chapters.) Read the fictional editor’s note that opens the book below:
I have been charged with editing these
pages and seeing them through to
publication, but I do not like the task.
I wish it on record that I think
it better they had been burned.
— Hubert Lancaster, Esq
The poet’s wife, Vivien, is a satisfying character that ends up stealing the show, in my opinion.
A literary comedy of errors that will enchant fans of poetry, the Victorian era, and historical mysteries, The Gentleman is as enjoyable for its form, syntax, and witticisms, as it is for its characters and plots.
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