Book Review: Undermajordomo Minor

Mar 4, 2016

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt

This is KLCC.  I’m Connie Bennett, Director of Eugene Public Library, with a book review of "Undermajordomo Minor” by Portland writer, Patrick DeWitt.

It’s a deceptively sly and witty book, beginning with the title itself:  our protagonist, young Lucien Minor, comes of age through working as an assistant to the Majordomo at the distant Castle Von Aux.  If that evokes dark forests, snowy peaks and curious escapades, you’re right on target. 

We first meet Lucy, as he’s known, when he leaves home.  Beginning as an aimless compulsive liar and perpetual victim, Lucy learns through a variety of ambiguous adventures to successfully navigate his world.  By the end of the book he is able to rescue himself from great peril and energetically pursue true love.

Lucy’s story reads like a dark fairy tale for adults.  There’s whimsy here, exquisitely crafted dialogue, and familiar themes of class conflict, love, and betrayal.  The characters Lucy meets during his journey run the gamut from thieves to a voiceless parrot.  And mysteries abound: where is the Baron?  What happened to Lucy’s predecessor?

Through most of the book, I enjoyed DeWitt’s light and matter-of-fact handling of human foible; the one exception – which more squeamish readers may want to skip entirely – was “The Strange and Terrible Ballroom Goings-On” in which the moral decadence of the Baron’s friends is revealed in overly graphic detail.

As a whole, though, “Undermajordomo Minor” is a delight: the quirky characters, the complex language, the meandering tempo of Lucy’s quest.  I found myself rereading passages with great pleasure, and, especially, discovering something new in the rereading.  

This is KLCC.  I’m Connie Bennett, reviewing "Undermajordomo Minor” by Patrick DeWitt.