Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Misfortune by Wesley Stace


I am not sure how I came about this book. It might have been a recommendation for another book, or simply finding the cover somewhere and being drawn to it (how could I not, there is a woman with a moustache!). In any case, it was an absolute find!

Set in the 19th century it tells the story of Rose Old Loveall, from birth to death, in a memoir style, and with very quirky language. What makes this book different? Well, Rose is found by the Young Lord Loveall after being left for dead in a rubbish heap, barely a day old, and rescued to be brought up as his child, and heir to his fortune. Only Rose is a boy, even if he is brought up as a girl.

This alone made the book amazing. And no, I'm not a particular fan of gender bending or cross-dressing, but the idea of a boy raised as a girl only because her/his father refused to accept that (s)he wasn't the sex he though/wished the baby was, seemed hilarious to me.

I loved the writing style, quirky and funny, but never demeaning the story. There were parts that it was truly Dickensian. On page 15 I was already certain I would love it, by page 31 I knew it was going to be epic. Even if I never had so much trouble with pronouns since The Left Hand of Darkness. But the author was never intimidated by Rose's gender duality. When Rose thought of herself as a girl (because she believed to she was one for a long time), she was referred as such. When he finds out that, after all, he is a boy, Rose becomes a "he". No confusion whatsoever.

There is also some play on words that is simply marvellous. Some of it comes directly from the character of Geoffroy Loveall, that names Rose Old as such, to be an anagram of his beloved sister's name Dolores, and renames Rose in one of her plays, as Lord Ose, another anagram. There is also the play with the family name, Loveall, that love all, live in Love Hall, and have the motto of Amor Vincit Omnia (Love conquers All).

But even if this is quirky and funny, there are deep themes being explored, gender identity and the definition of self being some of them. Finding out that one has been lied to all their life, by their parents on top of all, can have devastating consequences, and give a sense of loss like no other. Rose goes through all of this, and there are parts of her life that remain unknown to the reader, although they are hinted at, for she is ashamed of what she has done in her despair. To add to this, there is also the loss of her right to inherit the Loveall name and Love Hall, because she was adopted. It is amazing to read of Rose's misfortunes and problems, angsty in parts, but no overly so, and how she overcomes them.

Despite this, there is a happy ending waiting for Rose, and throughout the book there are hints that it will be so. And yes, the nice plot twist in the end is expected, some would say not entirely believable, but I liked it. It fitted Rose, especially because she was referred to as Miss Fortune (another play on words), because despite all that happened she was indeed very fortunate.

Absolutely lovely.


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