Patrick deWitt doesn’t know it, but I have high expectations for his novels. His 2011 book The Sisters Brothers is one of my favorite reads, a comedic adventure that I absolutely could not put down. I was less of a fan of his 2018 novel French Exit, but decided to give Undermajordomo Minor a try anyway, with the hope that he would be able to recapture the magic that made The Sisters Brothers so enjoyable.
It didn’t quite do the trick for me, but there is still a lot of fun to be had in this picaresque novel, particularly if you like The Princess Bride and/or Wes Anderson movies. (I happen to love both, because I am a walking cliché.) Born in a small hamlet in an unspecified country, Lucien “Lucy” Minor decides to leave home to take up a position at a mysterious castle, in search of adventure. He certainly finds it, as even before he reaches the castle he befriends two thieves and is attacked by a band of soldiers. Star-crossed lovers, a menacing creature, and a Very Large Hole all help the plot move along quickly.
But the dialogue is deWitt’s biggest strength:
“I shall not sit idly by and settle for anything other than a perfect cup of tea.”
“Compromise is a plague of sorts, would you agree, yes or no?”
“I don’t know that I’ve thought of it before, sir.”
“A man accepts an inferior cup of tea, telling himself it is only a small thing. But what comes next? Do you see?”
Don’t look to this book for any substance or lessons, but if you want a fun, adventurous read that will make you laugh, you can’t go wrong with this.