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Review: The Gentleman by Forrest Leo

The Gentleman

Forrest Leo

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.

“The Gentleman’ by Forrest Leo is told through the words of Lionel Savage, a popular poet who has recently married for money. Having learned from his most trustworthy butler Simmons only recently that his funds are depleted, Lionel sets out to find a suitable bride. This in itself is told with a sweeping sense of playfulness, but it is the rest of the tale that really grabs hold of the reader, taking them on a carnival ride of ridiculousness and laughter. The book is fast paced, an easy read, and the characters are all completely gripping, wonderful and I truly wish they could all be my friends. On top of the first person narrative of the rather eccentric and foolish Mr. Savage, there are footnotes provided throughout, offering quips and insight, by the “editor”, Mr. Hubert Lancaster, Esq. This fictional editor and his notes add to the hilarious splendor of this tale, presenting to us, the reader, an outside opinion of the curious characters within.

The Gentleman is the devil; of this there is no mistaking, and quite a gentleman he is too. Given his presence, it can be assumed he is responsible for the folly that follows, but it should be pointed out that the characters themselves, Savage and his rambunctious little sister, Lizzie, have erratic and frivolous minds that lead them down the path to even befriending the devil in the first place. With the help of a pleasantly polite inventor, and a popular adventurer, this team of nonconformist clowns only further cartwheel this adventure down a slippery spiral of silliness.

With a dash of romance, a sprinkle of adventure and a spoonful of whimsy, ‘The Gentleman’ is a perfectly mixed recipe set in Victorian London worth digesting in one sitting.

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