Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt (2015)

majorIf you haven’t seen it, the book trailer for Undermajordomo Minor is a work of art (see below).

Patrick DeWitt is a Canadian novelist and screenwriter who lives in Portland, Oregon with his family. His first novel, Ablutions (2009), was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice book. His second novel, The Sisters Brothers (2011) won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor General’s Award for English language fiction. The novel was also shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize and Scotiabank Giller Prize. In 2012, The Sisters Brothers won the Stephen Leacock Award and was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction. Undermajordomo Minor is currently longlisted for the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize


After a near-death experience, Lucien (Lucy) Minor leaves an unfulfilling life in Bury to work as the undermajordomo at the Castle Von Aux, a place full of dark secrets. In the nearby village, Lucy becomes friends with a pair of criminals and falls in love with the lovely Klara, who happens to be attached to another man. Life is good, but also not quite right to put it mildly. Between solving the mystery of what happened to Baron Von Aux, obsessing over his romance with Klara and hiding salami up his sleeve, Lucy endeavours to discover what the purpose of his life is meant to be after escaping the clutches of death and worst of all, boredom.

Patrick DeWitt conjures an ever-present feeling of hope amidst the dread and absurdity throughout this deliciously Gothic tale thanks to our protagonist, Lucy. He’s not particularly heroic in the beginning; in fact, Lucy’s a liar and pathetic coward. But during the course of events, Lucy strives to be more than ordinary, developing tenacity and a chutzpah that I admired and didn’t expect.

The story contains a few scenes that can only be described as ghastly and a shock to the system after innocently ambling along with Lucy in the story. Lucy takes it all in stride, but I was left reeling a few times.

Undermajordomo Minor is an existential folk tale where the weird and wonderful journey of Lucy is more important than his ultimate destination. Patrick DeWitt plays imaginatively with some of our favourite themes and tropes writing an ambitious story that will remain in your thoughts long after you’ve closed the book. I’ve seen the book compared to the work of Wes Anderson, Tim Burton and Monty Python, and I would throw in Roald Dahl for good measure, but overall I think Undermajordomo Minor deserves to stand all on its own.

I received a copy of Undermajordomo Minor with much delight and thanks to House of Anansi, but this in no way influenced the thoughts and opinions expressed in my review.

4/5 Stars


6 comments on “Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt (2015)

  1. Naomi
    September 17, 2015

    Laura’s review of this made me want to read it and not read it at the same time. I don’t think I’ve come any closer to a decision. I do like quirky, though, and it sounds sufficiently quirky. Is it too quirky?


    • ebookclassics
      September 18, 2015

      I would say it’s quirky, but not to the degree you wouldn’t understand what was happening. But there are a couple of violent scenes that I think you should aware of.


  2. Brian Joseph
    September 18, 2015

    This sounds dark and quirky. Thus it sounds like a lot of fun despite some of the intensity that you describe.

    The influences that you mention make it sound even more appealing.


  3. ebookclassics
    September 18, 2015

    If you like fables and folklore, you will enjoy the style and tone of this book. There is a decent balance of darkness and light-heartedness to the story.


  4. lauratfrey
    September 23, 2015

    “the weird and wonderful journey of Lucy is more important than his ultimate destination.” Yes, I agree. The reader has to be comfortable without a defined ending, or a defined story, or reasons why. I thought I was comfortable with all that stuff, but this book showed me that maybe I’m not!


    • ebookclassics
      September 25, 2015

      The book definitely makes you question your personal preference in a book’s style and structure. I wasn’t comfortable with this book’s experimentation at first or with the ending, and it was only after finishing the book and having some time to think about it that I appreciated what DeWitt had written and was aiming to do. But this book may not be for everyone.


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This entry was posted on September 17, 2015 by in Reviews and tagged , .

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