Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman Audio

Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman Audio

Eleanor Updale
For ages 12 and up
Unabridged audiobook (CD)
Performed/read by: Stephen Fry
Listening Library, 2004 

London in the 1800’s is a city full of vice, poverty, violence, disease, and misery. It is also a place where wealthy gentlemen spend the day at their club, chatting with their friends, eating heavy meals, and doing nothing in particular. The gap between the poor and the rich is enormous and seemingly un-crossable, and yet there is one man who is determined to cross that invisible barrier, a man who has spent his life scraping by. He has worked and he has stolen to put food in his belly.

When we first meet this man he is recovering from a dreadful fall which he took during a robbery. He is also in prison for his crimes, an appalling place full of sadistic guards and vicious criminals. A famous doctor has taken on the job of putting the injured thief back together. It is his exposure to this doctor and the doctor’s world which gives the thief the idea of trying to find a way to join that world of comfort and security.

What he comes up with is a remarkable scheme, one which puts him in the position of playing the role of not one, but of two men. There will be Scarper, the thief and low-life who steals from the rich and well-to-do. Scarper is going to use the new London underground sewer system to get to, and away from, the scenes of the crimes. No one will see him come and go, he will simply vanish into thin air. The second man is Montmorency, a rich man of leisure who lives in an upmarket hotel on Hyde Park and who has nothing better to do than to go out with friends, buy new expensive clothes, and generally entertain himself. The items that Scraper steals will make Montmorency’s life of comfort possible.

As soon as he is released from prison the thief disappears into one of the poorer parts of London and transforms himself into Scarper. Once he has made enough money selling his "loot," Montmorency makes his appearance at the Marimion Hotel and he is soon established there with his servant, a scruffy looking fellow called Scarper.

What follows is a remarkable story of self discovery, adventure, and suspense. Montmorency finds himself disliking Scarper and the life of the thief more and more. Is there a way that he can let Scarper go and yet remain Montmorency, the basically idle young man-about-town? The "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" nature of Montmorency and Scarper only makes the story more interesting and unique.

The author has created an extremely sympathetic character whom we grow to respect and like. He is a man who survives, who uses his brains to break away from a life of poverty and unhappiness. Better still, he is a man who grows intellectually and morally before our very eyes. Montmorency changes and we can only hope that he will be able to achieve his goals.