Rustication

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The 1863 diary of an unpleasant young man, Richard Shenstone, who has just been sent down from Cambridge under a cloud of very unpleasant circumstances to which, since this is 1863 and this is a drama of the family circle, we need hardly allude further. Charles Palliser’s new neoVictorian novel is very much in Sarah Walters territory without the madness or the lesbians. Here we have certain new postmodern delights amid the discomforts of the remote marsh-side house to which the Shenstones have been relegated on the death of Richard’s father. Richard is a most unreliable narrator, he basks in self-pity, he is selfish and uncaring. He has no empathy, at several points he cannot quite decide whether someone is laughing or crying, and throughout this novel of red herrings he invents and discards wild explanations for the behavior of nearly every person in the neighborhood. He may well be paranoid. He may be a psychopath. And yet: something is not right in Thurchester, and we realize it had been wrong for some time before Richard’s unexpected arrival.