This is the story of Klas, a writer and the narrator of the story (and, seemingly, the author of the book), who is down on his luck after his flat is broken into. He meets a man called Henry and they strike up a friendship resulting in Henry asking Klas to share his flat. Henry has a brother called Leo who comes and goes out of Henry’s life. Henry and Leo’s lives seem fairly ordinary; both are creative (a pianist and a painter) and they have the usual friends and girlfriends and money worries, but there seems to be secrets and puzzles in their lives as well. The reader joins the story near the end when Klas is barricaded in Henry’s flat, with the brothers having both been taken by their ‘enemies’ (as Klas describes them, although he doesn’t know who these ‘enemies’ are). Klas decides to tell the stories of the brothers as a memorial to them, and the novel therefore goes back to the beginning of the friends’ relationship to describe the brothers’ lives as Klas knows it and the mysterious circumstances of their disappearance. The story is set in Sweden.

This is another book where I enjoyed the insight of the life of a writer, although I found it a slightly strange and unusual book and was left puzzled at the end (and, indeed, often throughout). The author/main character tells the story in a chatty and humorous way and I feel I warmed to him. All the place names and historic events dealt with in the book were rather lost on me as I don’t know very much about the history of Sweden and Denmark so found it difficult to build up a picture in my mind of what the characters were seeing and experiencing.

The story seems to be more the story of Henry and Leo told by the narrator rather than the story of the narrator Klas, so this feels quite unusual and it did seem a bit slow at first and I struggled a little to continue with it. The description on the back of the book makes it sound as if the author is telling the true story of these people that he met, and so I was intrigued throughout reading the book whether this was actually the case. When the narrator writes of Leo and his poems it does feel as if it’s a report of a true real-life person, more so than with Henry as Henry seems to be doing wild and unlikely and fictional-type things, whereas Leo’s poems are quoted and the story of Leo feels almost biographical. I am very intrigued as to whether this is all truth or fiction, and have searched on the internet to try and find out.

I was interested in the different labels given to Henry throughout the telling of his story, eg Henry the clerk, Henry the secret agent. I can imagine Henry forming these labels in his own head and almost playing the part/role of that title at that time – or are these labels used sarcastically/humorously by the narrator to laugh at Henry and tease him?

I did struggle to decide what was the main theme or story of the book. It was exciting reading about Leo’s search for the truth of Verner’s dad’s disappearance as I was finding the rest of the book quite slow at this point; I thought at the time that this section was perhaps what the book was building up to although it seemed a long way into the book, but then all of a sudden this theme seemed finished and dealt with. Or I wondered if the main story was the excitement of Henry’s hunting in the tunnels for gold. As I read, I kept wondering what had caused the disappearance of Henry and Leo and who their enemies are, as referred to at the beginning of the book – is the reason one of the stories above?

I found the end of the book inconclusive, and I did find it annoying that the reader doesn’t discover what happened to Henry and Leo and why. Again, I am intrigued if this is real-life or fiction.

The book does keep the reader interested as it begins with the narrator barricaded in a flat with Henry and Leo having disappeared, so all through the book the reader is keeping that in mind and waiting to discover more. The book essentially ends where it begins.

Gentlemen (Paperback)

By (author): Klas Ostergren

Presents the story of the author's friends (and flatmates), the two Morgan brothers: Henry - a charismatic charmer, a man who loves to play at life but is mysteriously bound to the beautiful Maud; and, Leo - a child genius who became a revolutionary poet, drinking and smoking his way to disillusionment.
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