One of the books that I was specifically saving all year to read during the RIP Challenge was Rustication by Charles Palliser. His books are always dark and moody and tense and perfect for when the days get shorter and the rainy hours outnumber the dry ones. When our power went out on Thursday night as the wind and rain beat down on us, I couldn't resist popping my book-light on this book and diving into the Victorian English marshes.
The story is written as the journal of one Richard Shenstone, seventeen years old and recently expelled, or rusticated, from Cambridge. His father has recently died but Richard doesn't really even know how because his mother and sister won't tell him. They didn't even tell him about the death and he had to find out from a newspaper. But now that he has been sent down from school, he has had to move in with them, into the dilapidated manor that is now his mother's only possession. What happened with his father and why his remaining family is treating him like an imposition is only one of the mysteries in this twisty, opium-and-hormone-tinged tale.
With an incredibly unreliable narrator but also an unreliable everyone else, this is a crazy and sometimes frustrating story. But it comes together in a satisfying way and it's on par with The Unburied, Palliser's other tale set in the fictional town of Thurchester. Neither of these books provoked the visceral reaction that I had to The Quincunx so now I want to go back and read that again to confirm that it really is Palliser's best work. But, even when he's not at his peak, he is still a master of gothic atmosphere and peril.
In the mood for misery,