Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt

dewitt(House of Anansi Press, 2015)

An Adult Fiction pick by Jean-Louis

Patrick DeWitt, a Canadian author who lives in Portland, Oregon, burst onto the literary scene with his break through second novel, The Sisters Brothers. Set in the late 1890s, a couple of hired killers are making their way to California to do a job for the Commodore. Along the way the brothers encounter rascals and have time to reflect on the idiosyncrasies of their horses and careers. DeWitt’s novel was a triumph of style and writing which took home many literary prizes in Canada and abroad.

His new novel has been highly anticipated to say the least. This time our central character is Lucien Minor, known as Lucy. We are somewhere in Europe in an undetermined time. Young Lucy is cast out of his home and he is to take up a job at “the castle” and will have the grand, if somewhat ridiculous title of Undermajordomo. The fact that his family name is Minor rounds out the undercutting.

If you have watched the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel, you can easily get a sense of the over the top silliness which is at the heart of the new novel. As in The Sisters Brothers, the writing in the novel is sparse and funny. Young Lucy enters the castle and the surrounding village to find a wild cast of odd characters. Lucy also finds love and intrigue at nearly every turn. The novel is a delightful romp and we can be sure that movie makers will have this one in their sights soon.


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