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review 2016-02-16 16:20
Undermajordomo Minor / Patrick deWitt
Undermajordomo Minor - Patrick deWitt

Lucy Minor is the resident odd duck in the hamlet of Bury. He is a compulsive liar, a sickly weakling in a town famous for begetting brutish giants. Then Lucy accepts employment assisting the majordomo of the remote, foreboding Castle Von Aux. While tending to his new post as undermajordomo, he soon discovers the place harbours many dark secrets, not least of which is the whereabouts of the castle's master, Baron Von Aux. Thus begins a tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery, and cold-blooded murder.

Undermajordomo Minor is an ink-black comedy of manners, an adventure, and a mystery, and a searing portrayal of rural Alpine bad behaviour, but above all it is a love story. And Lucy must be careful, for love is a violent thing.

 

Hindsight is 20/20. I should have re-read a fairy tale or two before tackling Undermajordomo Minor. I think it would have been useful to have the fairy tale structure in my head to compare to this work.

I do love the way deWitt plays with names. His outlaws with the surname Sisters in The Sisters Brothers and now Lucien Minor who takes on the position of Undermajordomo in this novel.
I snorted when the Majordomo, Mr. Olderglough, says, “I find the constant upkeep of the body woefully fatiguing, don’t you?” I have been known the claim that if I did everything every day that all of my health care professionals recommend that I do, I’d have no time to go to work. Perhaps I exaggerate a trifle. Perhaps.

Alas, I find that I don’t fully connect with Mr. DeWitt’s writing somehow—I like his work, but I always come away feeling that I’ve missed something crucial which would have transformed them into a fabulous experience.

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text 2016-02-03 06:07
January Round-Up
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov
Undermajordomo Minor: A Novel - Patrick deWitt
Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster - Swietłana Aleksijewicz,Keith Gessen
The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities - Will Allen,Charles Wilson
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War - Karen Abbott
The Belly of Paris - Ernest Alfred Vizetelly,Émile Zola

Wow, how did we get in to February? Geesh.

 

I finished 6 books in January—not a huge number for me, but I also got 1/3 of the way into A Suitable Boy, which will be the longest book I have ever read (once I finish!).

 

Book total: 6

 

Nonfiction: 3 (!!)

1001 Book List books: 1

2015/2016 publications: 1

In translation: 2

Female authors: 2/6

Diverse authors: 1/6

Award winners: 1/6

 

I am pretty pleased with the mix this month. Half nonfiction, and a good mix of translation, female authors, and diversity. Which makes the whole month quite diverse. I love nonfiction, but this is a lot for me. And I admit I do read a lot of female authors, so 2/6 is not high for me. It's the mix of a little bit of everything that makes me happy—and keeps me reading!

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text 2016-01-05 05:34
Undermajordomo Minor
Undermajordomo Minor: A Novel - Patrick deWitt
I loved The Sisters Brothers, though I found it a bit too violent. I really did not think he could do it again, as that book was so unusual.

But DeWitt has a very unique voice—his worlds are normal historical fiction worlds, only they are not. Color is so important, as is texture. You think you know what is happening, only you don't exactly. His language is fun, his place and personal names fun, and it makes you want to visit. As with The Sisters Brothers, I want to see this on screen. And I am not a movie watcher. I wonder what kind of a screenplay he could write?

Though the end of this novel is unresolved and thus not a 5-star read for me, I feel like DeWitt has an amazing 5-star novel in him.
 
 
 
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review 2015-12-09 00:13
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt

First off, I love the cover art by Dan Stiles!  

 

In The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt, Eli and Charlie Sisters are notorious killers from Oregon working for "The Commodore" as guns for hire.  They travel to California during the 1851 gold rush to kill their latest target, Hermann Kermit Warm.   These two brothers are as different as night and day.   Charlie is a cold-blooded killer who longs for power.  Eli is a more sensitive type who would like to settle down to a simpler life.  The book is narrated by Eli and his descriptions of random occurrences during their travels symbolize the deep misgivings he is having about his choices in life.

 

"My very center was beginning to expand, as it did before violence, a toppled pot of black ink covering the frame of my mind, its contents ceaseless, unaccountably limitless.  My flesh and scalp started to ring and tingle and I became someone other than myself, or I became my second self, and this person was highly pleased to be stepping from the murk and into the living world where he might do just as he wished.  I felt at once both lust and disgrace and wondered, Why do I relish this reversal to animal?"  

 

This book is a violent and darkly funny romp through the old west.  It's not a book for everyone but it is fresh and different.  Although I wasn't thrilled with the treatment of most of the animals in the book, I did enjoy the story.  There were times while I was reading that I pictured a Quentin Tarantino movie.  Chances are if you like those, you will like this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2015-10-30 17:44
The Sisters Brothers / Patrick deWitt
The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living–and whom he does it for.

With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters–losers, cheaters, and ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life–and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.

 

This is not Louis L’Amour nor is it Zane Grey. Traditional Westerns have good guys and bad guys and you can tell them apart by hat colour. This is not one of those Westerns; things are not so cut and dried with The Sisters Brothers. It’s as if Charlie and Eli Sisters are two halves of one person. Charlie is a drinker, a killer, everything you would imagine in a bad guy, but he still has a brother who cares about him. Eli is the more sensitive of the two—he is concerned with what others think, wants to get out of the sordid business he is involved in, he cares about animals and people, plus he worries about his weight. No wonder their boss wants Charlie to dump him!

 

The Sisters Brothers examines the family bond—how far are we willing to go to humour or protect our family members? The brother relationship is tested repeatedly, each one knowing how to push the other’s buttons. Charlie has been protecting Eli since before Eli could walk. Eli’s temper can be harnessed to protect Charlie in return. Charlie is a typical older sibling—he makes decisions and expects Eli to follow.

 

This reminded me of Clint Eastwood’s movie, Unforgiven, which Wikipedia calls “a dark Western that deals frankly with the uglier aspects of violence and how complicated truths are distorted into simplistic myths about the Old West.” Not your granddad’s Western.

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