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Publisher's Summary

From the best-selling, Man Booker-shortlisted author of The Sisters Brothers comes a brilliant and boisterous novel that reimagines the folk tale.

A love story, an adventure story, a fable without a moral, and an ink-black comedy of manners, Undermajordomo Minor is Patrick deWitt's long-awaited follow-up to the internationally best-selling and critically acclaimed novel The Sisters Brothers.

Lucien (Lucy) Minor is the resident odd duck in the bucolic hamlet of Bury. Friendless and loveless, young and aimless, Lucy is a compulsive liar, a sickly weakling in a town famous for producing brutish giants. Then Lucy accepts employment assisting the Majordomo of the remote, foreboding Castle Von Aux.

While tending to his new post as Undermajordomo, Lucy soon discovers the place harbors many dark secrets, not least of which is the whereabouts of the castle's master, Baron Von Aux. He also encounters the colorful people of the local village - thieves, madmen, aristocrats, and Klara, a delicate beauty whose love he must compete for with the exceptionally handsome soldier, Adolphus. Thus begins a tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery, and cold-blooded murder in which every aspect of human behavior is laid bare for our hero to observe.

Undermajordomo Minor is an adventure, a mystery, and a searing portrayal of rural Alpine bad behavior, but above all it is a love story, and Lucy must be careful, for love is a violent thing.

©2015 Patrick deWitt (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers

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What listeners say about Undermajordomo Minor

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

LUST AND LOVE

Human lust and love simmer in “Undermajordomo Minor”. From a male’s point of view, Patrick deWitt has written a fantasy about an ancient time of castles, counts, and countesses reflecting on lust and love through the ages. The story suggests men are liars, and women are enablers; with the sexes meeting in lust and, at least in one case, growing into love.

The main character is a man named Lucy. Listeners meet Lucy as an unloved child nearing death. Lucy is visited on what appears to be his deathbed by a mysterious stranger that asks him what he wants out of life. Lucy says he wants something different. The stranger nods his head and leaves his bedside. The next day Lucy feels better but his father rapidly deteriorates and dies. His mother believes her husband’s death is related to Lucy’s recovery. Never having shown much love to Lucy, she treats Lucy as a tenant more than a son.

Patrick deWitt has written something different in "Undermajordomo Minor". He shows himself to be a skilled teller of tales; an artist suggesting there is more to a supernatural story than entertainment.

4 people found this helpful

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Great yarn and very well read

Superior reading makes this funny bit of magical realism all the more enjoyable. Would make a good intro to the world of audible books

4 people found this helpful

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So Good

this is the first thoroughly unpredictable story I've encountered in a long time, and the narration is really to notch. 10/10.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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meh

I wasn't a fan of any of the characters. The storyline was weak BUT it wasn't long.

2 people found this helpful

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Sometimes a train is just a train

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes a hole is just a hole. Sometimes a book is just meh.

If I were to choose one word for this novel it would be underwhelmed. If I were to choose two words for this novel the second would be cute. Cute works for puppies. It also works for babies. For me, however, cute doesn't work on its own for novels.

Look, I don't want to be too hard on Patrick deWitt. I really liked both 'Ablutions: Notes for a Novel' and 'The Sisters Brothers'. That is why I read the d@mn thing. And there were parts of it I liked. It just seemed a bit too trite, too uneven, boring, and again too cute. Even a candle in @ss (I won't delve deeper to ruin the surprise) in this book seems cute. The debauchery of castle elites just isn't what it used to be. The thrill is gone. The castles are closed. The holes hide no hermits.

So, if you've never read deWitt. Go read 'The Sister Brothers'. It is a better book and keeps the style, but drops the cute.

17 people found this helpful

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I loved The Sisters Brothers but this one, BLEAH..

I've had this book for like five years and haven't been able to finish it

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Not sure I get it

I understand that this was a fable, darkly comedic, but it was just not that fun. I didn't particularly like any of the characters, understand their motoves, or get the point of any interactions. I'm pretty disappointed in the whole thing, to be honest. I bought it based on the reviews, and find myself confused by the praise.

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Troubling twist

The book was actually pretty good until it took a very troubling twist. The specific section had to do with the dinner party. I’m no walk flower, but the section made me stop listening.

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the main character is Thoroughly unlikable.

while the narrator is quite excellent, the main character is both thoroughly unlikable and uninteresting.

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A Fun Fairy Tale that Loses its Focus

I feel as if I might be missing the skeleton key to this one.

On the one hand, I really enjoyed its neo-fairy-tale atmosphere. In that light, it reminded me of The Hike and Sendlin Ascending, other books (more successful, I think) that evoke a sense of wonder from almost their opening sentences. Each, this included, captures a tone that makes you want to sit up and listen, a goodnight-story tone for adults.

On the other, I don’t quite see the big picture for this. I’ll do it badly if I try to paraphrase the Russian formalists on fairy tales, but they’re collective point (as I understand it) is that fairy talks function by giving us certain sets of narrative features and then varying them within an implicit larger pattern. That is, there are almost always similar pieces – a mostly innocent boy or girl on a quest, a mentor figure, an adversary, a forbidden place – and they get moved around in different ways to make a different point.

I’m not looking for Aesop-level morals, but I am hoping for a sense of why I was asked to listen to this particular story. Entertaining as this is at every turn, I found myself confused over how its different elements connected.

Early on, there’s a kind of religious sensibility. Lucy, for instance, entertains the possibility of a religious faith that his father rejects and that may or may not be what causes him to live while his father dies. (SPOILER: At the very end of this, we re-encounter the figure Lucy took to be Death and discover it’s merely a brain-damaged beggar…or is it? That point is unresolved in a way that calls us back to the neglected theme without letting us know whether to take that theme too seriously.)

There’s also a classic fairy tale trope around the young protagonist as liar, and Lucy tells a couple potentially incriminating lies along the way. In the end, though, he never seems to suffer for any of them. It may be that the novel is violating the expectation that liars will pay for their untruths, but even that possibility gets more or less washed away in the larger narrative. It’s something that happens but that never gets enough attention for us to come to any conclusion.

While this feels inventive throughout, it doesn’t feel structured in either the way I hope or the ways the Russian formalists describe. As one example, it takes until fairly late in the book for us to be introduced to “the very large hole” which comes to play a central role in the story. It isn’t hard to imagine that deWitt might have had Lucy stumble upon it as soon as he arrived in the area around the castle. For that matter, he might have had Lucy hear about the possibility of suicide in the hole when he was still on the train and denied that story for no apparent reason.

In a potential SPOILER, the entire novel ends as if it’s trailing off more than culminating in something. First, Lucy escapes from the hole, but to what? There’s an emptiness when he returns with almost everyone dead or gone. It isn’t clear to me why that matters; it feels more incidental than cumulative, almost like an excuse for him to leave rather than the real end of the story.

And then the final scene of him composing his own epitaph, while boasting beautiful prose, doesn’t quite seem to tie all the pieces together. There’s a dash of the religious quality, there’s something of the broken-heartedness we’re told to expect, and there’s a promise of more to come. Within those different pieces, though, it’s hard to tell what we’re supposed to privilege as readers.

I hear deWitt’s earlier one is better than this, and I’ll be open to it. After this, which certainly has its merits, my expectations are only middling.