Thursday, August 24, 2017

One last post on "The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue" and how it connects to our store's namesake

Last week I was at Boswell talking to a YA library about what books he'd liked this year. #1 on his list, as it's been for many, was The Hate U Give. But almost immediately after that he mentioned The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and VirtueAnd while we were talking, one of our other customers, who teaches high school English, joined in on the conversation. The ears perk up when you discuss an 18th century novel about two boys who are maybe in love and a girl who is secretly studying medicine.

You've heard me talking about The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue this season already, mostly because we hosted an event with author Mackenzi Lee in June, when she appeared with Brittany Cavallaro, author of A Study in Charlotte and The Last of August. Fans of Cavallaro's will be excited to know that the final book in the trilogy, The Case for Jamie, releases March 6, 2018. Lee, who also wrote This Monstrous Thing, also has a book coming out in March 2018, but it's completely different; Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World is based on her social media series. Pub date is March 13!

Our sales rep Jenny Sheridan (whom you last met touting Orphan Island, and I'm sure you've noticed it keeps popping up on our bestseller list) offered this fascinating insight into selling the book: "We have seen a plethora of retellings for middle grade and teen readers of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but have yet to see someone attempt to translate the delightful P G Wodehouse hero Bertie Wooster. Monty Montague is the closest I've seen. When the novel opens, Monty is totally psyched to begin his months-long tour of 18th century Europe with his life-long bestie/secret crush, the delicious coffee-colored Percy. Visions of debauchery dance in his pretty head. Then he learns that his father has other plans for the trip and all fun bets are off. When the boys set out, with a humorless chaperone and a sullen younger sister in tow, there seem to be no adventures on the horizon. Fast forward to sympathetic pirates and a sinking island and lots more crazy stuff and a sincerely sweet romance between the boys and you have a wonderful read that YA fans will really dig. This struck me as one of those rare books that effectively uses middle-grade plot techniques to advance a YA plot." I love this last insight!

And how about this starred Booklist?: "Tongue-in-cheek, wildly entertaining, and anachronistic in only the most delightful ways, this is a gleeful romp through history. Monty is a hero worthy of Oscar Wilde ( What's the use of temptations if we don't yield to them? ), his sister Felicity is a practical, science-inclined wonder, and his relationship with Percy sings. Modern-minded as this may be, Lee has clearly done invaluable research on society, politics, and the reality of same-sex relationships in the eighteenth century. Add in a handful of pirates and a touch of alchemy for an adventure that's an undeniable joy."

The truth of the matter is that I never read the Lee's book. By the time we'd scheduled the event, all our advance reading copioes had disappeared, and with my to-be-read table piled high, and me not being the best advocate for YA novels, I sort of let it go. But then a funny thing happened. I was spending the day in Boston, on my way to meet up with my sister and brother-in-law to go back to Worcester, and I decided to go to Trident Booksellers and Cafe, the store in Boston where Mackenzi (or rather, Mackenzie) works.

The store, on Newbury Street in Boston's Back Bay, is bustling, due to its reputation not just as a bookstore, but as an eatery. There's another Trident Booksellers and Cafe in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but I don't think they are related. There's another one in Boulder on Pearl Street. I usually think of Boulder Book Store when I think of bookstores in Boulder, but I noted in the forthcoming Nick Petrie novel (Light It Up) that the bookstore he referenced had a cafe and was too small to be the store I thought it was. I guess this solves that question. This begs the question, why are there three Tridents in North America and why do all of them have cafes? Yes, there are other Boswells too, but I our name is a direct literary reference, though the one in Massachusetts did tell me it was actually the name of the original cat in the store.

After browsing the shelves, I wound up being drawn to their pile of The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, and I couldn't help but support a bookseller-author and bought my copy. I spent the next couple of days reading the book. I can only imagine what it would have been like for me to read a book like this when I was a teenager.

But here's the really crazy thing. As I was reading Lee's novel, I saw a reference to Boswell, and I thought, could this be our Boswell? And then later in the notes, Lee wrote about the Grand Tour: "In its simplest definition, the Grand Tour was a journey through the prominent cities of Europe, undertaken by upper-middle- and upper-class young men, usually after completing their formal education. The traditiona flourished from the 1660s to the 1840s, and is often credted as the birth of modern tourism." And later on she recommended "one of the most through primary accounts of the life of a young man on his Grand Tour, the journals of James Boswell (who Monty anachronistically impersonates - the real James Boswell wasn't born until 1740, but I couldn't resist playing homage to my favorite source."

I feel so silly! How did I miss mentioning that not only are we named after James Boswell, but that we have a display case featuring works by and about the author, including several works that cover his Grand Tour? Well, better late than never to acknowledge the connection. And as soon as I read Boswell's Life of Johnson, I'll get started on Boswell's journals.

By the way, if you want to know whether there's a sequel to The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, you'll be thrilled to know that The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is said to be scheduled for 2018.

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