Rustication by Charles Palliser – A Review

17573664A solid 3.5 out of 4 stars.

I can’t believe I almost skipped out on this one. Had requested it before it hit shelves via the local library, and after picking it up and re-reading the inner cover was on the fence; very glad I decided to give it a try this past snow Saturday. The word rustication can mean two things: a trip to the country, or in the UK, “the suspension of a student from university.”

In the case of this novel, both definitions are appropriate. Told through the journal entries of former Cambridge student (and sometimes opium user), Richard Shenstone, Charles Palliser’s novel, Rustication, recounts the strange events that occur upon his expulsion from school when he returns to live with mother and sister. Recently widowed, Richard’s mother has been forced to relocate back to a dilapidated familial home in a rural town set upon a pretty miserable sounding marsh.

Upon his arrival home, Richard is surprised to find himself more unwelcome than he had expected; his mother is a shell of her former self, and his sister is clearly somehow involved in some neighborhood intrigue. The neighbors are far from welcoming, and it becomes clear that while at university there has been much kept from Richard. When mutilated animals start turning up, and village folk receive menacing letters accusing them of horrible things, fingers start getting pointed toward Richard…

While not the most reliable narrator, and let’s be honest, kind of a pervert, Richard keeps things interesting as he tries to unravel what is going on around him. Probably one of the more true Gothic novels I’ve read this year, it’s dark and moody, and I finished it off in a day. Pacing-wise, things move at a solid clip, but I found the last 20 pages or so to be a bit tiresome. Definitely a must for those who like atmospheric novels and don’t mind overlooking a few plot weaknesses.

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xo The Book Bird 


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