Orange Reading: Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon

Lord of Misrule – Jaimy Gordon
Quercus, 2011

Review copy from the publisher
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Lord of Misrule is a book about horse racing. More precisely, it is the story of Tommy and his girlfriend Maggie. Tommy aims to win a lot of money through entering his unknown horses in races and getting out of the circuit before anyone has the chance to claim one of his horses. But as happens so often with plans, people begin to notice him from the very first. Cue a story about the developments at one race track, seen through the eyes of several characters, including Tommy, Maggie, and a caretaker called Medicine Ed.

In Lord of Misrule Jaimy Gordon very much portrays the seedy side of horse racing. There is a reason Medicine Ed has that nickname, for example. There are horses who are obviously too old to be running being raced to the death, there is gambling, and there are power struggles that come with a scene that involved drugs and betting. Add to that Tommy and Maggie’s somewhat perverse sex life and you may understand that this novel very much plays to the intrigue that comes with feeling a slight repulsion to the setting and characters portrayed.

I admit, this was not exactly my kind of book. I know very little, or better yet nothing, about horse racing. Jaimy Gordon does explain the process of racing, betting, and claiming in a manner that helped me understand it a little. However, I still felt bewildered after reading the first 50 pages or so. Combined with my unfamiliarity with this world, the book heavily leans on the use of dialect and slang, slightly different for every character introduced, but all of it difficult to read and understand at first. I needed those first 50 pages to come to grips with what the hell was going on, and at the same time, the first 50 pages were the hardest to get through. Once I got past that point, the story became a little easier for me to follow, so did the prose, and whereas I was reluctant to continue reading before, I now felt quite certain I would make it to the end of the novel.

I did not enjoy Lord of Misrule exactly, but I did not, for the most part, dislike it either. I can appreciate what Jaimy Gordon has done, and how the prose and the somewhat alien setting are cleverly used in the novel. I actually enjoyed how the novel is set up around four races with four horses, and how each horse and race is hinted at in the previous parts of the novel. But overall, this was simply not my kind of novel. I particularly regret not feeling much sympathy for any of the characters, I simply did not care very much about what happened to them, not even to Ed or Maggie. Perhaps the seedy side of life mostly scares and repulses me too much to muster the required curiosity about it that pulls this book along.

Other Opinions: Lizzy’s Literary Life, Cardigan Girl Verity, Walk With a Book, The Quivering Pen, The Mookse and the Gripes, Shelf Love.
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5 thoughts on “Orange Reading: Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon

  1. zibilee

    I have no knowledge of horse racing either, so this book doesn’t really appeal to me. Add to that that there is a lot of slang that I probably wouldn’t understand, which makes me think that this is not the book for me. I do admire the fact that you stuck with it, and that you completed it though. I am afraid I would have given up on this one way before the 50 page mark!

    Reply
  2. nomadreader

    I don’t know anything about horseracing either, and it has put me off starting this one. Knowing the first 50 pages are challenging makes me want to read it in big chunks too.

    Reply
  3. Teresa

    I felt similarly to you. I thought the writing was really amazing, especially the dialect, but I wasn’t particularly engaged in the characters.

    Reply
  4. Anbolyn

    You know, I don’t think this book appeals to very many people. I have looked at it a few times, but just can’t muster any excitement in reading it. And it has been sitting on a display at my library for a few weeks now and no one has taken it. I think it is one of those books that critics like, but readers don’t.

    Reply
  5. Lu

    Unfortunately, I just couldn’t finish this one. I wanted desperately to like it, because I thought the prose was beautiful, but I never got into the story. I gave up after about 70 pages.

    Reply

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