Lord of Misrule – Jaimy Gordon
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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