I was looking forward to The Murdstone Trilogy, A Novel by Mal Peet as soon as I got wind of it. I read it last week, in a couple of sittings.
What a superbly entertaining satire it is.
Not only is it not a trilogy but, at just a little over 300 generously line-spaced pages, it is also economical in its one-volume-ness.
The main character, a single man and writer called Philip Murdstone, is completely believable. His career is going down the proverbial pan. Sales are derisory.
Cue for his agent, the magnificently conceived Minerva Cinch, to persuade Murdstone to try his hand at writing a fantasy, since that is all the rage.
I was laughing out loud (chuckling out loud to be more accurate, since most of my reading was done on a train, and I’m someone who rarely laughs aloud while reading anyway) from the word go.
And it wasn’t always the satirical digs at the ways and wiles of the publishing world that struck me as amusing (though it has to be said those who are most intimately familiar with that world are the most likely to get most pleasure from reading the book) – no, it is often just the pure observational genius of Peet’s writing that raises a smile, as in “Like most solitary men, he has a wide repertoire of groans.”
Peet has mischievous fun with the two librarians in the book, Francine and Merilee, known as the Weird Sisters. It’s always a pleasure when they enter the stage.
Murdstone agrees, under great pressure from Minerva, to attempt a fantasy – initially to no avail. Eventually, with a bit of help from a guest ale called Dark Entropy, some time alone amid a stone circle on Dartmoor, and a certain dwarfish creature called Pocket Wellfair, the fantasy gets written.
Lovers of the genre will need to possess their own sense of humour to appreciate Peet’s clever passages of pastiche as he shows us examples of the quest Murdstone is working on.
It’s probably fair to say that the book’s most appreciative audience will be those who share Peet’s own obvious bemusement at the popularity of High Fantasy,