Martin Booth - A Very Private Gentleman

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A Modern Day James Bond

May 8, 2012
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Wonderfully written, detailed descriptions, and had a nice blend of styles

Cons:Slow paced, hard to get into, lack of chapters

The Bottom Line: If you like spy novels, but don't like a lot of action, then I can't recommend you read this book enough.


The book, A Very Private Gentleman, tells the tale of a man who has lived his life in the shadows, taking various jobs, and never truly settling down.  We know of him as “Signor Farfalla” (Mr. Butterfly), as the job he depicts to the world is a painter of butterflies, either to be displayed in art galleries or sold as stamps.  Later, it is revealed that his occupation is a gunsmith, one of the best in the world, and this current commission happens to be his last work.  The story takes place in a small village in modern day Italy, where the man, assumed to be English, is currently working on customizing his last gun before he retires.  He has only two friends: a priest he sometimes drinks and debates with, and a prostitute, who is working her way through college, and an attraction develops between the two that turns into love.  This attraction, coupled with the peacefulness of the village, causes the man to wish to retire there, but unfortunate circumstances could make this impossible.  There is a shadow that could complicate the man’s wishes, and the result is, I must say, truly heartbreaking.

One of the best parts of this book has to be the writing style.  The style of this book is that of some sort of a confessional; the character narrates himself and his journey on his last job.  There are all sorts of descriptions and sections that give off the peaceful feelings that the character experienced, and is written in such a way as to make it seem like the character is actually writing this down himself.  There are no chapters which, personally, I found kind of annoying as it makes it seem less organized, but the book is broken into sections that help make the story flow.  Some of the sections are not even about the specific story.  Instead, they describe certain aspects of the setting, the characters, instances from his past life, and many philosophical observations, especially on religion.  In this way, the book kind of reminds me ofThe Grapes of Wrath, as that book contains chapters that are not necessarily about the main story, but are companion chapters that describe events that are similar to the events that are going on in the main story.  

If one were looking for a book with a lot of action, you won’t find it in this one.  There is some, granted, but for the most part, this book is more about the descriptions and the commentaries on certain aspects of life rather than fighting and action.  One can get easily bored by the breaks from the actual story, but it fits with the style of the book.  The lack of many characters and dialogue may also make this book tedious.  However, when there is dialogue, it is very meaningful, and can be quite humorous, especially when the man and the priest are arguing about this and that.  

Most importantly, when reading this book, one has to realize right away that there is going to be a lot of discussions and descriptions, some of which are not necessarily involved in the actual plot, but do contribute to the character of the primary protagonist.  Many will be turned off by this kind of writing style, and I can sympathize with that.  Personally, I found this book to be a very enjoyable read.


Recommend this product? Yes

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