Let me first just say that I am very much a fan of Patrick DeWitt. His previous book, The Sisters Brothers, delighted me with its quirky weirdness. And Undermajordomo Minor does the same. It’s definitely quirky, definitely weird and, like The Sisters Brothers, quite funny. Especially if you have a sort of weird sense of humor.
Undermajordomo Minor tells the story of Lucien (Lucy) Minor who leaves his home village of Bury because he doesn’t feel he has any reason to stay. His father has passed away, his mother has already rented out his room, and his girl was never his girl, but, rather just a friend with benefits, which Lucy found out after the fact.
Lucy takes the train from Bury to the Eastern Mountains where he is employed as the Undermajordomo to Baron Von Aux. During Lucy’s tenure as the Undermajordomo to the Baron, he meets a variety of interesting characters in the village below the Castle Von Aux, as well as in the castle itself. Including, but not limited to, a madman, two thieves, the village beauty, some minor royalty, soldiers, pescatarians and a wily butcher. There is also in the vicinity of Castle Von Aux, a Very Deep Hole.
And that variety of interesting characters leads to a series of strange and often very funny experiences for Lucy. Lucy’s time in Castle Von Aux is filled with the various, standard duties of an undermajordomo, such as mailing letters via train (also known as standing on a train platform with letters for the engineer to reach out and grab). But, the time is also filled with lying, pick-pocketing, war, love, bitter tea, shopping, murder, pie-filled orgies, friendship and puppies. There are puppies, Folks!
I found this book delightful (and not just because of the puppies), but, if you’re going to read it, it probably helps to have an appreciation for the absurd. Oh, and that aforementioned weird sense of humor wouldn’t hurt either.