Your brother takes me for a barbarian, Mr Bowen. But I assure you, I’m quite well trained.
When Benjamin and Edgar Bowen embark on a Grand Tour of Europe, they are ready to meet people of quality. They have trunks full of powdered, silver wigs and matching suits, a hunger to experience the architectural wonders of ancient Rome and an ability to quote Voltaire (at length). They will make connections and establish themselves in high society, just as their mother has planned.
But it soon becomes apparent that their outfits are not quite the right shade of grey, their smiles are too ready, their appreciation of the arts ridiculous. Class, they learn, is not something that can be studied.
Benjamin’s true education begins when he meets Horace Lavelle. Beautiful, charismatic, seductive, Lavelle delights in skewering the pretensions and prejudices of their milieu. He consumes Benjamin’s every thought.
Love can transform a person. Can it save them?
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- Heather Trow
If you don't like crude books, this is not for you
If you don't like crude books than this is not a book for you because Mr Lavelle has a serious potty mouth and a lewd personality. What a character! I understand why many think this book might have had more of an emotional impact if Horace Lavelle hadn't of been so crude and humorous in the first half. But, personally, I thought that side of him helped to amplify his meltdown at the general unfairness of the world. It's a very moralistic story about class, sexuality, and following your own path. And all set in the 1700s. I really enjoyed the first half of this book when Benjamin (the narrator) meets Lavelle and shows him all the horrid bits of real life his parents have sheltered him from. Seeing him through Benjamin's eyes, he was an exciting breath of fresh air. Until he wasn't, in the second half of the book when the tone completely changed. The author tried so hard to make the parents the bad guys in all this, but it didn't quite work for me. What were their crimes really? Wanting a better life for their children, even if that plan was too optimistic to work out, and concealing their past to avoid prejudice against their sons. That is all. For me, personally, the "bad guy" was Horace Lavelle. I know we're supposed to feel sympathy for him because of his past and the persecution for being gay, but any sympathy evoked quickly evaporated in the second half of the book. He is a horrid, manipulative person. He may be broken because of the abuse he suffered, but it absolutely does not give him the authority to abuse others. He meets Benjamin, learns about his life, and then utterly destroys his reality in every sense. It may not have been physical abuse, but it was certainly emotional abuse. There's a line at the end of the book that goes something like <i>Lavelle wasn't here to forgive, he was here to crush</i> which sums his role up quite aptly in this story. Overall, I thought the story was quite well written and the characters were great. The plot and some of the key events let it down a bit though as they were a tad dramatic.