Patrick DeWitt – Undermajordomo Minor (3 stars)

Light-hearted but lightweight gothic fairytale

Patrick DeWitt – Undermajordomo Minor

An ambitious yet lost young Lucien (Lucy) Minor leaves his humble and depressing beginnings in Bury, to the enticing position of undermajordomo in the Castle Von Aux. Befriending a pair of enigmatic thieves, and falling for a local village lass, he soon settles into a quirky life in the castle and its surrounding village.

Part light-hearted bildungsroman, part gothic fairytale, Undermajordomo Minor is hard to pigeonhole, which works both against it and in its favour. Charming in its uniqueness, at times it feels like a Wes Anderson creation, with eccentric, ostentatious characters behaving awfully, and wordy chapter titles such as 'The location, apprehension and return to normality of the Baron'. But it’s difficult to find a character, or even an overarching theme, to cling on to.

Maybe this was DeWitt’s intention – to give the impression of a pastoral piece of theatre disguised as a novel. If you’re a fan of Brechtian tragicomedy, it will bring as much pleasure (and sadness) as DeWitt’s previous Booker-shortlisted endeavour, The Sisters Brothers, a much more intimate and melancholy affair.

Out now, published by Granta.

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