I enjoyed this book more than I expected to, mainly because of deWitt’s style of narration and dialogue. It’s a strange book and nearly impossible to categorize. It’s not fantasy, although it takes place in a castle. It’s a love story, sort of, and an adventure story, and a coming-of-age story. Some readers on Goodreads describe it as a “gothic fairytale” and I’ll leave it at that.
Our hero is Lucien (Lucy) Minor, a young man who leaves his mother’s house to seek out a new life in the Castle von Auk. Lucy has been hired as the assistant to the castle’s majordomo. It’s not a very high position and the pay won’t be very good, but Lucy’s prospects aren’t exactly promising.
You might sympathize with Lucy, except there isn’t much to like. Lucy is weak, cowardly and a liar. So I suppose whether you like this story hinges on whether Lucy is someone you want to read about. And something about the way deWitt tells this story kept me coming back, even when Lucy seemed like the most selfish man in the world.
The fun thing about this book is how it plays on many tropes of the folk tale/adventure story. There’s a creepy castle with a mad Baron, the beautiful peasant girl, and the big strong guy who’s trying to win her over. There’s a deep dark pit and long lost loves.
There is also friendship, and growth — although maybe not as much as I’d hoped for.
I didn’t expect to like The Sisters Brothers when I read it either, and yet I did. You read deWitt not so much for the story but for deWitt’s humor and cleverness. As I wrote this review I realized, I really can’t tell you WHY I liked it. But I did.