Monday, December 14, 2009

Misfortune by Wesley Stace, reviewed by Sara Chatterjee

Misfortune by Wesley Stace

Reviewed by
Name: Sara Chatterjee (17 years)
School: Vasant Valley School

“I grew up as my mother’s idea and my father’s idée fixe.” – Rose Loveall
Our story opens with the highly fragile and eccentric Lord Geoffroy Loveall, in desperate need of an heir, finding a baby in some sort of a garbage dump in 19th century England. Delighted, he takes the baby home, christens it Rose, and presents it to his mother as his newfound daughter and the heir to his property, Love Hall. So far, so good. There’s only one problem: the baby is a boy.
Lord Loveall’s eccentric behaviour stems from his feeling responsible for the death of his little sister, years before. For this reason, people in his immediate surroundings choose to humour him, and Rose remains Rose. Soon, Loveall’s mother passes away. He marries the librarian of Love Hall, who herself sees this baby boy as a test case for her idea that “male” and “female” are mere social roles. Little Rose grows up blissfully unaware of her own gender, enjoying her close friendship with two servant children, Stephen and Sarah, hitting boundaries at every cricket game and learning to shave, yet wearing dresses and spending entire nights talking to Sarah in her room.
All this until Rose’s world comes crashing down around her when Lord Geoffroy Loveall’s distant family finds out the truth and she is banished from Love Hall as an impostor.
Although the novel seems to be set in the 19th century, it is almost timeless, a look in the past with all the ideals and mentality of the 21st century. It is filled constant references to Greek mythology and unforgettable English ballads, and has the reader pondering over complicated questions on the true nature and importance of gender. Moreover, the story is often told from the point of view of different characters, without ever veering to the unclear or the confusing.
Why did I choose to write about Misfortune? Quite simply because I have been blown away by this novel – especially by magnitude of Rose’s struggle with the world as well as with herself. Another fact that I love about the book is that the author is originally a songwriter, and had once sung a song about a girl called Miss Fortune, based on the same theme. I admire his ability to have been able to divide a melody into chapters, pages, and prose that reads like poetry.

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