Book Review – Undermajordomo Minor – Patrick deWitt
- Book: Undermajordomo Minor
- Author: Patrick deWitt
- Genre: Fiction
- Year of Release: 2016
- Read 352-page hardcover edition in September 2016.
This novel by Canadian author Patrick deWitt follows the story of Lucy Minor, a young man who decides to leave his small town, given he has no real life prospects, and take up residence in a castle, as the Undermajordomo. When he arrives, and begins learning the variety of duties and tasks he is to perform, he also sees that the people in the nearby village, and the few other residents of the castle itself, are not all they appear to be. When he falls for a young woman in the village, he also realizes that to win her hand, he must take on a variety of risks, some of which he doesn’t even fully appreciate. He certainly has taken on adventure, mystery, and the exploration of love itself, in his new role at the castle.
This fantasy-mystery-romance hybrid is definitely an intriguing and funny tale that is quite successful in many respects. Similar to his last book, Sisters Brothers, author deWitt does an incredible job weaving humour and intrigue into the lives of interesting and multi-layered characters.
The novel actually feels very similar to The Sisters Brothers in many respects. The style of deWitt is very distinctive, and so for those who have read that novel, there are many points where you can feel reminded of the style and pacing from that prior work. Similarly, one of the problems with The Sisters Brothers, which comes up here, is that the plot often feels a bit scattered. We see our main character, Lucy Minor, moving around and taking part in a variety of activities, but often without real understanding as to why the sequence of events is occurring the way it is occurring. There are also minor scenes and characters which come up a few times, such as a story about two train operators near the beginning, which never come up again, leading us to wonder exactly why that scene was included in the first place. At times the cluttered structure feels a little confusing and unnecessary.
However, on a positive note, the characters themselves are fun to read about, encounter a variety of strange circumstances, and have depth to them. There are several characters throughout the novel that, while we may not necessarily have a strong liking for them, we are very interested as the reader in what happens to them. Given everyone has confused and unclear morals, the fact we still want to know what happens is a sign the author has created a compelling cast.
The setting of the castle and nearby village is fascinating, and deWitt does a great job creating with his words a feeling of the reader being in a fantastical, but also surreal, place.
Overall: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars