Review: The Gentleman

The Gentleman
Written by Forrest Leo
Published by Penguin Press on August 16, 2016
287 pages
Received from Muse Monthly Subscription


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 is a fun, quirky book that I’m not likely to forget anytime soon. The characters are full of life and wit. I was chuckling all the way through it. I really enjoyed the structure of the book; especially the use of the footnote. Mr. Leo’s use of Lionel’s “cousin” brought out some very funny anecdotes. While reading this book, you can’t take anything too seriously.

First, Lionel is a real piece of work. He thinks he is a poet and he definitely  acts like one. He is so melodramatic and self-absorbed. You just roll your eyes over any of his behavior. His melodrama brings so much humor to the story. He tries to find poetic inspiration in everything he sees which at certain points is truly eye-rolling. His little journey to find his wife reminds me of a madcap treasure hunt with so many kooky twists and turns.

Probably my favorite part of this book is cousin Hubert Lancaster. I loved the use of his footnotes. It made for a fun and unique read. In most books, you would just glance over the footnote. However, Mr. Leo uses the footnote as a literary device to challenge the narrator’s story. If you just glance over these footnotes, you will be missing a quite of few witty quips.

I will also commend Mr. Leo on writing some strong female characters. Lizzie and , even Vivien, are fun, strong, and will not stand in the shadow of a man. They are independent and intelligent. There is nothing “vapid” about these women. You will see their struggle trying to be relevant in a very man’s world. I really loved how the men were completely whipped by these amazing ladies.

If you’re in the mood for a fun, witty, madcap journey, then this book is for you. It is quite the page-turner and it’s something you will not forget.


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