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The story thus far is so engaging, and the details of Rose's childhood so playfully rendered (when she was first brought to Loveall Hall, the staff of 250 included a servant whose sole responsibility was to iron newspapers before their second reading), that it is with reluctance that the reader meets the inevitable rude, scheming relatives whose plotting will lead to the "misfortune" of the title. Luckily, Stace (the given name of the musician John Wesley Harding) takes too much delight in Rose to dump her back on the garbage heap, or at least not for long. The cross-dressing love child of Great Expectations and A. S. Byatt's Possession, Misfortune will find you breathlessly tracking the movements of its principal players, and applauding the most ridiculous twists of fate. --Regina Marler
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Born in Hastings and educated at Cambridge, Wesley Stace is also known as the musician John Wesley Harding. Musical influences are on display in his gender-bending debut novel, Misfortune, a historical tale set in 19th-Century England about an abandoned boy raised as a girl. Read on to listen to three original songs inspired by the book.
A Message from Wesley Stace
Songs weave their way throughout Misfortune--some are ballads, crucial to the plot and written by one of the characters, others are traditional songs sung at various points of the narrative, others are folk songs from a collection in the Octagonal Library of Love Hall, the home of the central family.
Songs aren't anything if they aren't sung, so I decided to match melodies and words and record some of them. I picked these because they were the first two. There will be a full record of the songs of Misfortune, performed by The Love Hall Tryst (myself, Kelly Hogan, Nora O'Connor, and Brian Lohmann) which will be released by Appleseed Recordings later this year. --Wesley Stace
From Chapter One: "For a moment, the laundress was unaware that there was anyone beneath. She began to sing as she worked and this is what finally breathed life into Pharaoh again. It was one of the old songs, his favourite of the many she sang: the story of Lambkin the builder who tortures Lord Murray's family when his note is refused. The purity of Annie's voice contrasted starkly with the words of her song and the street below:
"'Where is the heir of this house?' said Lambkin:
'Asleep in his cradle,' the false nurse said to him.
And he pricked that baby all over with a pin,
While the nurse held a basin for the blood to run in."
She had sung it so many times as a lullaby that the horror of the story was somehow soothing."
From Chapter Two: "Loveall recalled a previous Lord Loveall and the song that bore his name, and he sang it softly to the baby. This ancestor had deferred his marriage for seven years while he went travelling. He returned after only twelve months, but as he rode home, he heard the church bells ringing, "for Nancy Bell who died for a discourteous squire." He died too of grief, as he gazed on her corpse lying in its coffin, and was buried next to her. From her heart grew a red rose and from his heart a briar:
"They grew and grew to the church steeple
Till they could grow no higher
And he pricked that baby all over with a pin,
And there entwined in a true lovers knot
For true lovers to admire."
"The Ballad of Miss Fortune"
"Miss Fortune" is the song from which came the original idea for Misfortune. The Ballad of Miss Fortune is a re-recording of this song from John Wesley Harding's album, Awake.
Music from John Wesley Harding
Here Comes the Groom
Trad Arr Jones
Confessions of St. Ace
John Wesley Harding's New Deal
!-- -- end6pak>
I truly enjoyed reading this book and look forward to reading his next book.
Mr Wesley's novel is very well documented and every detail of the complex story-line falls elegantly into place at the end of the narrative.
I found myself completely engrossed with this book largely due to the main character.
This debut novel by Wesley Stace fulfills the promise and then some. He has a masterful touch for prose, and the pace of his storytelling keeps the reader absorbed throughout the... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Donald E. Gilliland
I received this book as a gift a few years ago & was immediately put off by the unattractive cover and length. "Ummm...maybe later," I thought, as I stuffed it ont my bookshelf. Read morePublished on March 1, 2012 by MKB
The witty, fast-paced, deliciously detailed opening of "Misfortune" raised my expectations for an escapade on a par with, say, "The Oracle Glass: A Novel. Read morePublished on August 25, 2011 by S. Chiger
After all of the very literary reviews to date, I am afraid this is going to sound a bit basic! I thought this book was mildly interesting but rather boring in parts. Read morePublished on August 28, 2010 by Brightonandrew
I read 267 pages in, checked other reviews to see if it was worth finishing, and quit. The premise of this book (an infant boy rescued and raised as a girl by a psychologically... Read morePublished on July 10, 2010 by J. Anderson
I purchased this book at a thrift store and it happened to be an "advanced reading copy". I'm not sure if the final product had the same amount of literature in it or not. Read morePublished on June 13, 2010 by Honestbee
Misfortune is the story about an abandoned baby boy saved from a dog on a trash heap, renamed Lady Rose Loveall, and raised as girl by two eccentric adoptive parents closeted away... Read morePublished on July 19, 2009 by Tori
My idea of a great beach read (for people who aren't into reading Candace B.)Published on July 28, 2008 by Katherine
I have been collecting Wes's work since a friend showed me a video on MTV "The Devil In Me" and a live performance of "Cathy's New Clown". Read morePublished on June 5, 2008 by Dennis Howes