"Misfortune" by Wesley Stace Little, Brown, 531 pp., $23.95 Coming Up Wesley Stace, aka John Wesley Harding The author of "Misfortune" will...
by Wesley Stace
Little, Brown, 531 pp., $23.95
It is 1821 London; Lord Geoffrey Loveall is riding in his carriage, on the way home to Love Hall from an appointment with his dying mother’s estate planners. What began as an uneventful day of ministering to his mother’s financial concerns ends in great exhilaration, for on the ride home, Lord Geoffrey rescues an abandoned infant, thus assuring his bedridden mother that the Loveall fortune will pass on from her foppishly effeminate son to another heir, instead of ending up in the coffers of the despicable and graspy in-laws. Now Mother is free to die.
Deciding that the infant is the reincarnation of his beloved sister, Dolores, Lord Geoffrey names the baby Rose, lavishing upon her a childhood only the heir to England’s wealthiest fortune could imagine and deliver. Raised on the Loveall estate, young Rose delights in Love Hall’s fascinating nooks and crannies and on the estate’s lush manicured lawns and gardens. All’s ducky until, alas, in puberty, Rose springs an ugly surprise upon the world: Dear Lady Rose Loveall is, in fact, a boy.
But Lord Geoffrey has passed on to another delusional plane as the greedy in-laws move in on Love Hall, seeking to snatch the girl-boy’s inheritance. Meanwhile, Lord Rose Loveall sets out on an odyssey of self-renovation.
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Wesley Stace, aka John Wesley Harding
The author of “Misfortune” will read at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S. Main St., Seattle, free (206-624-6600; www.elliottbaybook.com). Following the reading, Stace will assume his John Wesley Harding persona and perform at the Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave. N.W., Seattle, $7. See www.sunsettavern.com.
Plot twists galore, obscure and legendary literary references, totally outrageous characters, and the possibility of a missing heir drive this gender-bending romp through 19th-century England. Dickensian in scope and inference and an ode to Trollope’s mannerisms, this thoroughly original tale is nonetheless accessible and contemporary.
More than homage to great classic tomes, “Misfortune” breaks the postmodern bonds of self-consciously sparse prose and frees the reader to revel like Rose in a bountiful garden of delight: reading so rich and unbridled that the story grabs us. At last, an out-of-the-box, truly original storyteller promises to soar above the literary horizon, all because he wrote the kind of book he liked reading.
Wesley Stace has referred to his first novel as “a bodice-ripper with the guy wearing the bodice.”
Also known as the British folk-pop musician John Wesley Harding, Stace based “Misfortune” on the hero/heroine of his song, “Miss Fortune,” which begins with the line, “I was born with a coat hanger in my mouth” and develops into a tale about a boy being raised as a girl by a wealthy benefactor in 19th-century England. Born in Hastings, Sussex, in 1965 and educated at Cambridge, Stace has lived in the United States since 1991 and resides in Brooklyn.