20 June 2013

Rustication; Charles Palliser

RusticationRustication by Charles Palliser
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Decent historical fiction based on a "diary" and "letters" found by the author.

When I say decent, what I mean is that the place and time are set quite well: we're in the Dickensian/Victorian era, but instead of London we're in a marsh-side village. Richard, 17-years-old (and it pays to continually remember his age) has been "rusticated" from Cambridge, for reasons that slowly are revealed. Not that long before, he read in the paper of his father's death - his mother, when asked, didn't want him to come for the funeral! Obviously, Richard has some questions about this. When he arrives at their new home, he sees that circumstances have radically changed, that his mother and sister have an incredible antipathy to him and want him gone - and fast. What caused all of this? And then incredibly crude anonymous letters start to appear, accusing townspeople of vile acts, while at the same time animals are being mutilated. How - are - they related?

It's never clear to me why his mother just doesn't say "here's what happened with your father, here's why I want you gone", choosing instead to be incredibly mean and elliptical in her actions and speech. Richard is, as most young men are, clueless about how women and how to behave, and he constantly falls in and out of love with the girls in the town. As for the townspeople, both in their village and the nearest city, they're mostly stereotypes. Well drawn stereotypes, but stereotypes nonetheless.

ARC provided by publisher.

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