A review of
by Wesley Stace
David Foster Wallace’s 1993 essay “E Unibus Pluram” concludes by suggesting that the next wave of literary rebels in the U.S. “might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels… Backward, quaint, naïve, anachronistic. Maybe that’ll be the point.” After all, in our fearful, insincere age, what could be more radical and risky than spinning a good old-fashioned yarn?
While Wesley Stace is not quite American—he’s British, but he’s lived here for fifteen years—his amazingly accomplished debut novel is precisely the kind of rebellious anachronism that Wallace augured. In its premise, plot, pacing, style, and enormous cast of characters, Misfortune operates deliberately like a Dickens novel. The book begins with a foundling in a rubbish heap (a foundling!), taken home to opulent Love Hall by the bachelor Lord Geoffroy Loveall, who, because of the traumatic early death of his sister Dolores, is determined to raise the child as a girl (Rose Old), even though the child is a boy.
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