Sigh. I must admit I was disappointed with Patrick deWitt’s, Undermajordomo Minor. Yes, it is clever and witty at times. Yes, his genre-bending approach is creative. Yes, the dialogue is often entertaining. But I was such a huge fan of deWitt’s 2011 novel, The Sisters Brothers, that I expected to be entertained beyond words. Instead, I found myself …… well, restless and bored [insert yawn here].
DeWitt’s latest book is hard to summarize. Lucy Minor is a cowardly young man struggling to find his place in the world. He leaves his hometown to become an assistant-to-an-assistant of a mysterious baron. He befriends the village thieves and falls in love with a young woman, already promised to another. Let the mayhem ensue. Undermajordomo Minor has elements of a traditional folk tale, including: an old castle; a damsel-in-distress; a mysterious giant hole in the forest; pointless skirmishes; young love; and a multitude of betrayals and secrets.
But it also has things that are not so folk tale-ish, such as: a salami-slapping-ballroom-orgy scene; a rat-eating, mentally ill baron; a lazy, self-centered, lying protagonist; and a decapitated, jealous soldier (to clarify, after he loses his head, I presume he is no longer jealous).
When I factor in all of those elements, it seems as if it should be hysterically funny. Instead I find myself rather apathetic about the novel. Undermajordomo Minor takes place in an indistinct place, in an indistinct time, and is filled with characters that continually act in their own self-interest — cowards, pickpockets, liars, cheaters, adulterers, and snobs. I just didn’t connect with it.
As quoted by the baroness herself, “And would you not find yourself resentful at the promise of entertainment unfulfilled?”
Uhhmmmm …… Yes.
Now that I have set your expectations so low, you may actually find it just quirky enough to be amusing. So I encourage you to give it a try. If nothing else, please pick up a copy of deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers. That one is definitely worth tracking down. Click below to find a local bookstore where you can find (or order) either of these books.