Imagine, for a moment, that you’re unhappily married and you meet the Devil, who isn’t a hoofed, fiery horror but a “gentleman”. You strike up a conversation with him in which you mention that you’re absolutely depressed and unable to continue on because of your martial situation. The Devil sympathizes with you for a time, then when he’s gone, you discover that your wife has disappeared as well. Time to freak out… or celebrate? This happens to Lionel at the beginning of this tale and it just gets better from there.
The Gentleman is written in Victorian England but with a slightly steampunk twist. The style is very silly- as if Terry Pratchett had written a historical fiction in our world instead of Discworld. The author utilizes footnotes, just like Pratchett, to add layers to the tale and an outside narrative. I enjoyed it a lot.
First of all, Lionel spent a great deal of his fortune on books. Who could fault a hero for that? “I don’t buy anything except books. You cannot possibly tell me I’ve squandered my fortune upon books.” “Squander is not the word I would have used, sir. But it was the books that did it, I believe.” Well, there it was. We were paupers.” pg 2. So, like any self-respecting Victorian gentleman, Lionel sets about to find a rich wife.
Though successful, then he finds that he can’t write a word worth reading. “…I’m a poet, and poets aren’t meant to marry! Poets are meant to dream and dance in the moonlight and love hopelessly!” pg 57.
Simmons, the long suffering butler, is my favorite character. Throughout the madness and hijinks of the main characters, he is a voice of reason and calm. Take this moment, after Lionel’s initial meeting with the Gentleman: “Do you consider me morally reprehensible for inadvertently selling my wife to the devil?” ‘I do, sir,’ (Simmons) says. I had feared as much. I was feeling morally deficient, but wondered if that was only because of my weariness.” pg 91.
The dialogue is snappy, the characters are great, and the whole thing is just silly fun. The Gentleman would be a great book to read if you’ve been into a bunch of serious novels lately or just need an escape from daily woes.
If you enjoyed this book, you may also like Terry Pratchett’s hugely popular series of books or Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero.
Thanks for reading!