Patrick DeWitt – Undermajordomo Minor (3 stars)

Patrick DeWitt – Undermajordomo Minor

Light-hearted but lightweight gothic fairytale

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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