Forrest Leo’s “The Gentleman”- Not gentlemanly, thank god.

What a riot! I received this as an ARC from Penguin’s First to Read program, and I am so glad I did. For fans of Terry Pratchett, Monty Python, and the greats of dry British humor, this is the book for you. Thank you, Forrest Leo!

Our hero (thought not really) of The GentlemanLionel Savage is a once-renowned poet who finds himself destitute in Victorian England. What is a man like that to do? He certainly cannot work an honest living, so he must marry rich. The beautiful and witty Vivian Lancaster is just the ticket. Savage finds that he can love her enough to marry her, but not enough to stay in love-only one month after his marriage, Savage is miserable and has lost his Muse.

In walks the Dev’l (as Lionel feels is his appropriate name), a nice and unassuming gentleman who wants to be friends with Savage. They discuss literature, the trials of the poet, and whether or not Savage should kill himself. The Dev’l dissuades him (presumably since he doesn’t want his new friend to be a permanent resident.) Morning comes, the Dev’l is gone, and so is Vivian. Like any sane and logical man, Savage realizes that the Dev’l must have taken his wife, that he is in fact still in love with Vivian, and that he must get her back.

The story that follows is a wild and rollicking adventure complete with flying machines, volcanoes, almost-fought duels, and too-smart book store owners. Savage is accompanied by his wayward sister, Vivian’s buddhist adventuring brother, the trusted butler, and a crazy inventor in his quest to save Vivian from the Dev’l’s clutches before it is too late.

Punctuating this already pretty funny psuedo-bio is footnotes from Vivian’s cousin, a straight-laced lawyer who does not find Lionel’s writing good, humorous, or factual, except for the Dev’l himself. The footnotes only add to the hilarity, with both narrating bodies thinking they are reliable and neither being entirely so.

This is definitely not a book for those looking for straight-up humor, or straight-up adventure. This is a book for the lovers of dry British humor, filled with unconscious self-deprecation and asides that don’t make sense. The beginning is slow, the main character isn’t altogether likable, but the book is worth so much more than those pretty normal indicators of a good read. The author is only a year older than myself, which on the one hand gives me crippling anxiety for doing nothing with my life but also makes me happy to see people my age with a good sense of humor and strong writing skills. Give it a whirl and see for yourself. Five out of five waves for making me laugh pretty consistently through this entire read.

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