“I like autumn. The drama of it; the golden lion roaring through the back door of the year, shaking its mane of leaves. A dangerous time; of violent rages and deceptive calm, of fireworks in the pockets and conkers in the fist.” [1]


Do you believe in magic?

tumblr_o7qhgwlrcs1uxbjjso1_500I’m not talking about hand reading or cheap nonsense.
I mean magic, the real one, the one that makes you be in two places at once, for example.

I do.
Because when I read I’m in three places at the same time: the physical one, the one in the novel, and the one in my head.
It does not always happen, not with all the books, there must be a specific alchemy, a certain type of writing, the plot must be very memorable, able to take me away, to make me forget the here and now.


“Gentleman and Players”[1] it’s set in the North of England, and although I’ve never been there in person, I immediately got every landscape, street, shop, valley or square described in it. black-white-chess-89380
I was there.

 “Most adults assume that the feelings of adolescence don’t count, somehow, and that those searing passions of rage and hate and embarrassment and horror and hopeless, abject love are something your grow out of, something hormonal, a practice run for the Real Thing. It wasn’t. At 13 *everything* counts; there are sharp edges on everything, and all of them cut.” [2]


And I was here, in Rome, in the middle of Villa Borghese, surrounded by acrobats, people and children.  And at the same time hid in silence, completely immersed in the story told in two voices. I remember the tree under which I put the plaid, and I remember the smell of Battenberg cake[3].
Yet when I came back this Spring, there was neither the one nor the other.
The first narrator is Professor Straitley, while the second one exposes many details about himself, his childhood and school, but he does not tell us his identity. We know that it is someone who is currently in school, but we do not know who he is. Joanne Harris was very good at balancing adjectives, poses, characterization, so that the reader could be captured and intrigued by this mysterious narrator until the final scene shot. 


It is an unstoppable reading, able to make you live in the book, trying to anticipate the next steps of this crafty chess game between the two narrative voices.

Is not this magic?








[1] From the novel.
[2] St Oswald’s is a long-established boys’ grammar school in the North of England. A new academic year has just begun and change is afoot. Roy Straitley, the Classics master and a veteran of St Oswald’s, is contemplating retirement. Increased paperwork, computers, Health & Safety and a new generation of administrators have finally persuaded him that he no longer has a place in the world of education. However, St Oswald’s is about to suffer a cataclysmic upheaval. It begins with a series of small acts of mischief conducted by someone on school premises. At first, no one thinks of connecting these seemingly isolated incidents. But gradually, as the incidents become increasingly serious, it becomes clear that someone with inside knowledge is intent on causing real damage. Only Mr Straitley may have the key to the identity of the mysterious saboteur – but can he expose the enemy in time to prevent a murder?
[3] From the novel.
[4] https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/14/how-to-make-the-perfect-battenberg-cake