Sunday, January 29, 2006

Misfortune, by Wesley Stace

Here is the premise of this book: In the early 19th century, an eccentric asexual nobleman needs an heir; he finds an abandoned baby and decides to raise the child as his own. He convinces his dead sister’s governess to marry him and pose as the baby’s mother. The only catch: he wants a daughter, and the foundling is a boy. No matter, he’ll ignore this inconvenient detail, and raise the child as a girl.

The first third of the book is very original, witty and well done. This is where we meet the characters, and learn what it’s like pretending that a boy child is really a girl. The middle third of the book, however (where the secret is discovered) is much too long, with lots of moaning and groaning and no real action. The final third, where the boy (who still likes to wear dresses) attempts to discover his true heritage, is really over the top, and depends on one of those outrageous coincidences so beloved by 19th century writers. I kept thinking, “oh, this is just too much.”

This author, Wesley Stace, is also a musician who records and performs under the name John Wesley Harding. This is his first book. I might try another by him, when one comes out. Here is an interview with him.

(Book 6, 2006)


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