If Tim Burton and Wes Anderson collaborated to write a novel in the writing style of Ronald Dahl, it would turn out a lot like Patrick DeWitt’s UNDERMAJORDOMO MINOR.
The story is about Lucien (Lucy) Minor, an inconsequential young man from the town of Bury. Seeking to escape the undesirable and uninteresting, Lucy finds his way to Castle Von Aux. “…a decision which led to many things including but not limited to true love, bitterest heartbreak, bright-white terror of the spirit, and an acute homicidal impulse.” As he notices, “Lucy couldn’t shake the notion that there was some malicious anathema about in the castle.”
“…we’ll die here.”
“That’s not how we see it…”
“How do you see it?”
“We’ll live here.”
Through quirky verse and fanatical happenings, DeWitt tells the tale of life and love. I REALLY enjoyed it all. As he writes: “Undemonstrative manner of reportage; and yet he was moved by the tale as well.” This is more than a story; it is a pondering of a quick life boiled down to a summary that can be bound up within an epitaph. At times the events may not make sense, but then it strikes your heart.
“I have no regard for a man so willing to give his life for an idea…”
“Yes, and what is the idea?”
“May I ask who it is they’re fighting?”
“What are they fighting about, do you know?”
“Well now, what does anyone fight about, boy?”
There are two wars taking place in this book: a war between men with an unknown cause, and a war of love. “What a violent thing love is, he thought. Violent was the word that had come to him.” Not only does Lucy battle, figuratively and literally, with the concept of love, but so do the others around him—in all manners and forms. “For if love had so degraded a personage of the Baron’s powers, what might it do to him?”
The person Lucy goes to work for is twisted within his own heart’s constraints. Lucy also battles to become significant in within his own life. “Lucy recognized his taking solace in giving up; he was familiar with the comfort which existed in the acceptance of failure.”
“All that I’ll say is that there is an unwellness rampant in the castle.”
“A pervasive unpleasantness…”
A word of warning. This paragraph has minor spoilers about animal cruelty and sexual pervasiveness. Twice you may think harm befalls a puppy—take comfort, it does not! However, a rat is devoured by a crazed man (the things love will cause!). And, yes, there is a tart-induced orgy in the castle. As for violence with humans, heads are blown off via cannon balls and fingers are chopped off via envy. End of spoilers.
This book was a fabulously fun ride with quite a bit of meaning. Its story is simple, its effects complex. DeWitt is a magical author with tons of character. You may get squeamish, but what the hell—it’s worth it!
OH!! Stay tuned for a giveaway announcement with this book….
And…here’s the trailer for the book:
UPDATE: be sure to check out Reading in Bed’s review of this book. She’s struggling to give it a rating, even deciding on if she “likes” it, but it left her with a smile and some reading enjoyment!