If 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
* CONTAINS SPOILERS
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.