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. Read more...
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 Herge's beautifully detailed Tintin adventures."
- ISBN-13: 9780399562631
- ISBN-10: 039956263X
- Publisher: Penguin Press
- Publish Date: August 2016
- Page Count: 304
- Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.9 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-06-06
- Reviewer: Staff
In this riotous send-up of Victorian literature and Victorian manners, Lionel Savage is a middling poet who runs out of money. To avoid penury, he enters into a loveless marriage with the wealthy Vivien Lancaster. But six months into the marriage, Lionel finds that the marriage has sapped his vital poetic spark. Then, at a masked party held by his wife, he meets the Gentleman, a stranger who ultimately reveals himself to be the “Dev’l.” The next day, Vivien is missing and Lionel realizes that he must have accidentally sold her to the Gentleman. To rescue her, Lionel recruits an intrepid band consisting of Simmons, his back-talking manservant; Ashley Lancaster, his brother-in-law, an explorer newly returned to London; Will Kensington, an inventor of flying machines; and his 16-year-old sister, Lizzie Savage, recently expelled from boarding school for having sex with the dean’s son. Pinpointing a volcano in Iceland as the entrance to hell, Lionel and company find it difficult to get out of London when they are mistaken for government spies, then anarchists, and are forced to flee from the police. Lionel is also challenged to no fewer than three duels on the way to a surprising ending. In his debut, Leo does an inspired job of parodying the conventions of Victorian fiction. Hilarious dialogue, a Pythonesque sense of the absurd, and comical complications worthy of Thorne Smith at his “dev’lish” best round out the tale. Agent: Mitchell Waters, Curtis Brown. (Aug.)
Six stellar summer debuts
Have you discovered your favorite new author of 2016 yet? If not, we have a few ideas. Though these novels cover a range of settings and genres, they each feature a distinctive new voice readers will want to hear more from.
HERE COMES THE SUN
For fans of: Edwidge Danticat, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Rohinton Mistry.
First line: “The long hours Margot works at the hotel are never documented.”
About the book: Three generations of Jamaican women struggle with love, family and finances in this beautifully complex novel.
About the author: Jamaican-born writer Nicole Dennis-Benn lives with her wife in Brooklyn, New York, where she teaches writing.
Read it for: A hard-hitting, realistic portrayal of those who live year-round in paradise.
HOW I BECAME A NORTH KOREAN
For fans of: Adam Johnson, Chang-rae Lee, Yiyun Li.
First line: “Home still begins as an image for me.”
About the book: The lives of a Chinese-American genius, a wealthy North Korean student and a desperate defector collide in a Chinese border town.
About the author: Krys Lee teaches creative writing in South Korea; her story collection, Drifting House, was published to much acclaim in 2012.
Read it for: A masterful portrayal of the personal side of world politics and Lee’s understanding of the complexities of immigrant life.
THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF IVAN ISAENKO
For fans of: Coming-of-age tales with remarkable young narrators, such as The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
First line: “Dear Reader, whom I do not know, who may never be, I write not for you but for me.”
About the book: Confined to a children’s hospital in Belarus for all of his 17 years, spunky Ivan Isaenko is determined to transcend his severe physical deformities. His world brightens with the arrival of Polina, an orphaned girl with leukemia.
About the author: Scott Stambach teaches high school and college math and physics in San Diego.
Read it for: An unforgettable lead character and Stambach’s powerful writing, which captures the small acts of kindness and the incidental tragedies that are part of institutional life.
THE LOST GIRLS
For fans of: Jennifer McMahon, Kate Morton, Laura McHugh.
First line: “I found this notebook in the desk yesterday.”
About the book: Sixty years after the disappearance of her younger sister, Lucy Evans bequeaths the family’s Minnesota lake house to her grandniece, Justine—along with a notebook that recounts some devastating family secrets.
About the author: Heather Young practiced law for a decade and raised two kids before turning to fiction. She has an MFA from Bennington College Writing Seminars.
Read it for: The feeling of sinking into the complications of generational skeletons, like a plunge to the bottom of a cold lake.
For fans of: Wilde, Wodehouse, “The Addams Family” and Northanger Abbey.
First line: “My name is Lionel Savage, I am twenty-two years old, I am a poet, and I do not love my wife.”
About the book: A 19th-century London poet blows his fortune on books and must marry for money. When he strikes up a conversation with the Devil at a society soirée, Lionel (accidentally?) sells his new wife—and her soul. Hijinks ensue as Lionel and a band of misfits set off on a half-baked rescue mission.
About the author: A playwright and NYU graduate, Forrest Leo was raised on an actual Alaskan homestead and has practiced dogsledding, carpentry and photography.
Read it for: Monty Python-esque levels of absurdity, endlessly entertaining footnotes, period--appropriate illustrations, swashbuckling adventure and romance.
Adam O'Fallon Price
THE GRAND TOUR
For fans of: Fredrik Backman and Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys.
First line: “Sir?”
About the book: Richard Lazar is reluctantly embarking on an alcohol-fueled book tour for his dark horse hit memoir about the Vietnam War. When Richard meets a hopelessly eager fan named Vance, the author surprises himself by letting Vance tag along.
About the author: A former musician and screenwriter, Adam O’Fallon Price grew up in California, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia. He currently lives in Iowa with his wife and cat.
Read it for: The oddly tender friendship that develops between the gruff author and the awkward Vance.
Nicole Dennis-Benn photo: Jason Berger
Krys Lee photo: Matt Douma
Forrest Leo photo: Abigail Sparrow