Undermajordomo Minor

Patrick deWitt

Published: 2 June 2016
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 304 pages
ISBN: 9781847088727


Lucien (Lucy) Minor is the resident odd duck in the bucolic hamlet of Bury. Friendless and loveless, young and aimless, he is a compulsive liar and a melancholy weakling. When Lucy accepts employment assisting the majordomo of the remote, forbidding castle of the Baron Von Aux he meets thieves, madmen, aristocrats, and a puppy. He also meets Klara, a delicate beauty who is, unfortunately, already involved with an exceptionally handsome partisan soldier. Thus begins a tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery and cold-blooded murder in which every aspect of human behaviour is laid bare for our hero to observe. Lucy must stay safe, and protect his puppy, because someone or something is roaming the corridors of the castle late at night.

Undermajordomo Minor is a triumphant ink-black comedy of manners by the Man Booker shortlisted author of The Sisters Brothers. It is an adventure story, and a mystery, and a searing portrayal of rural Alpine bad behaviour with a brandy tart, but above all it is a love story. And Lucy must be careful, for love is a violent thing.

About the author

Image of Patrick deWitt

Patrick Dewitt's writing has appeared in several US magazines and anthologies. His first novel, Ablutions, was published by Granta Books in 2009. He had previously published a short book of random writings and bad advice, Help Yourself Help Yourself. His second novel, The Sisters Brothers won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, the Govenor General Literary Award and was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize. He lives in Portland, Oregon. More about the author


‘[deWitt's] latest novel is a gothic fairy-tale...[with] a hint of Cold Comfort Farm and Stella Gibbons's woodshed and wit, while an errant salami evokes J.P. Donleavy’ Jeffrey Burke



Undermajordomo Minor is brutal, brilliant, sly, absurd, and poignant. It's both gripping tale and hilarious subversion. Once again Patrick deWitt proves his wild, original talent, generous wit, and exquisite control’ Sam Lipsyte, author

‘A bittersweet coming-of-age story... Funny’ Anthony Cummins

‘A dreamlike Euro-Gothic fantasy, with strong comic notes... it casts a powerful spell’

‘A sparky, fantastically Gothic novel that takes the hero on many an adventure. It is a witty, charmingly dark story that needs no embellishment’ Eithne Farry

‘A strangely seductive fantasy novel that erupts into moments of outrageous violence, it blends an aberrant but engaging take on the European folk tale with knowing glances to Samuel Beckett and Franz Kafka. A rollicking good read’ Martyn Colebrook

‘A weirdly funny, dark Kafkaesque fairy tale for adults. Think Alice In Wonderland and The Grand Budapest Hotel and you're on the right track’ Justine Carbery

‘An electrifying adventure, both tender and profane. Nervy, hilarious and utterly unpredictable, Patrick deWitt has served up another dazzler’ Maria Semple, author

‘As dark as night and as charming as a spell... A fantastical story, told with the panache of an aristocrat from a Gothic romance’

‘Charming in its uniqueness, at times it feels like a Wes Anderson creation... If you're a fan of Brechtian tragicomedy, it will bring as much pleasure as deWitt's previous Booker-shortlisted endeavour, The Sisters BrothersJessica Rodger

‘deWitt is a born writer’

‘deWitt pitches his take on the Gothic folk tale somewhere between Kafka and Young Frankenstein... This is an effortless read, filled with the most wonderfully idiosyncratic characters’ Robert Epstein

‘DeWitt's rickety [and] engaging novel riffs on the folk tale, transporting the reader into a gothic Europe. His characters are flawed, but game, baffled souls struggling in a petri dish, oddly touching to watch... As an element of the novel's quaint, breezily ludicrous backdrop, the conflict illustrates the bravado and relish with which Dewitt conjures and populates a universe... This novel has a lot of knowing fun.’ Liz Jenson

‘Engrossing, slightly unsettling, and always excellent stuff... Perfect for a long outdoor read. A gothic fantasy, it finds a flawed anti-hero at the centre of a very twisted fairytale, featuring madmen, murder, love and a big castle.’ Joshua Burt

‘From its pitch-perfect opening onwards, it's clear from the unusual atmosphere and droll narration that deWitt has created a unique fictional universe... The challenge for the reader is to resist the temptation to devour a novel which should be savoured’ Max Lui

‘Humour that's even blacker than your morning coffee’

‘Immensely entertaining... It insists on being read at a single sitting - it is that readable and funny... It has to be hoped that Patrick deWitt had as much fun writing this stylish caper as readers will have devouring it’ Eileen Battersby

‘Pacy and theatrical... Its comedy derives partly from [...] scenes that are almost Pythonesque in their absurdity. This odd, extravagant tale reads like PG Wodehouse setting Alice Through the Looking Glass at an outpost of Fawlty Towers Hotel in 19th century Austria: and if you think that sounds pleasingly bonkers, you're probably halfway there... a very funny book’ Melissa Harrison

‘Part folktale, part comedy of manners, part other, it exists at both ends of deWitt's spectrum at once: pitch black and morning light, as quietly unsettling as it is tender, as sad as it is laugh-out-loud hilarious’ Daniel Dalton

‘Patrick deWitt conjures and populates a universe on his terms. This is the territory of the Brothers Grimm, as seen through the skewed lens of Wes Anderson or Monty Python... Touching’ Liza Jensen

‘Patrick deWitt has an untrammelled and utterly original imagination. I cannot think of anyone else who could pull off so beautifully this controlled explosion of drollery, mischief, sly fun and tenderness’ Neel Mukherjee

‘Patrick deWitt is a true original, conjuring up dark and hilarious images. This is a bizarre, darkly funny, passionate book’ Francesca Steele

‘Patrick deWitt is an artful ventriloquist... [he] splices a range of whimsical genres into a fresh, charming novel about the madness of the human condition... Distinctive and utterly beguiling’ Claire Allfree

‘Poignant, genuinely disturbing... dramatic and nightmarish and funny to boot. I finished Undermajordomo Minor feeling that deWitt is a literary original who will be around for a long time to come’ Andy Miller

‘Quick and funny and thoughtful and moving... A tale that engages us and haunts us just like the best tales of yore... deWitt is a thrilling writer’ Daniel Handler

‘Suffused with macabre whimsy, this gently comic offering from deWitt [has]... an eccentric charm’ Phil Baker

‘Thoroughly entertaining... deWitt plays around with the genre, and our expectations, in a delightful comic novel’ Alastair Mabbott

‘With Undermajordomo Minor the contours of the deWittian landscape have come into sharper relief... It's told in a style that is now recognisably deWittian too: dreamlike scenes are recounted in meticulous prose... [An] uproariously perverted fairy tale’ Jon Day

‘Witty and wry’ Christine Bridger

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