Friday, March 31st, 2023

A farce of contemporary life in the English countryside

Two Gentlemen Sharing

by William Corlett

Published by Little Brown

Published April 10, 1997
Fiction (comedy)
352 pgs. • Find on

Reviewed by Stephen O. Murray

September 6, 2003

In William Corlett’s frothy novel Two Gentlemen Sharing, with the proceeds of a West-End hit and an inheritance, London producer Richard “Rich” Charter installs his relatively insecure boy-toy (I mean actor and model) “Bless” Maynard in Hall House, a grand old house in need of considerable renovation in a “typical” (sit-com) British (“Home Counties”) village.

News that the new occupants are “two gentlemen sharing” moves rapidly through the village, not least because of the outrage of the next-door neighborhood a retired colonial army Col. Blimp, Brigadier Jerrold, who periodically produces and distributes diatribes to everyone in the village.

As if “artistic” London homosexuals weren’t novelty and excitement enough, there is a seemingly lunatic woman on the run from a feminist commune that offered her up to a lecherous Italian lesbian. The latter, in turn is being pursued by her brother, a studly and fashionable bisexual count. And there is already an artiste and dance legend, Lavinia Olganina, stuck away in the village. Then there is the slatternly, greedy, lazy charwoman named Doris Day who is being whose very minimal services are being vied for by various villagers and Doris’s sister, the local shopkeeper, Bessie Sugar, who is anything but sweet. Indeed, she surpasses even her sister in passive aggressiveness.

The two gentlemen’s sharing is pretty theoretical because while Bless is meeting the neighbors and dealing with a succession of loony drop-ins, Rich is in London, New York, or Hollywood. Left to his own devices, Bless charms most everyone, including the Brigadier’s long-suffering wife and even Rich’s long-term room-mate who would not permit Bless to move in. There are secrets galore, an explosive town meeting invaded by skinheads, and a big garden party (dance recital supposed to launch a comeback of the long-retired dancer). The comeback is a bellyflop but also the occasion to reveal various villager secrets.

At 391 pages, the book is far from being lean, but it is light reading, very well suited to provide in-flight entertainment, though laughing at something other than in-flight movies puzzles and disturbs neighbors as much as the existence of “two gentlemen sharing” does in the book.

Funny as Two Gentlemen Sharing is, most of those who have read both it and his first novel, Now and Then, prefer the first one.

Corlett has twice won the Writer’s Guild Children’s Television Writer of the Year Award and clearly has an ability to keep many plot lines moving and to redeem even stock villains.

This originally appeared on epinions, 6 September 2003
©2003, 2017, Stephen O. Murray

About The Author

Stephen O. Murray grew up in rural southern Minnesota, earned a B.A. from James Madison College (within Michigan State University), an M.A. from the University of Arizona, a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (both in sociology), and was a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley (in anthropology). He is the author of American Gay, Homosexualities, etc. and lives in San Francisco.